Personally, there is something untouchable and intangible that baffles me about photography. I see photos as just two-dimensional things. They don’t move, they don’t make sound, and they don't give feedback. Still, a good photograph will stop us dead in our tracks
I’m sure professional photographer or a university professor could list the elements of a well-composed photo and break down how you could theoretically create a spectacular one. However, I think photography has a spirit that goes beyond division of thirds, composure, or texture. I think the spirit of good photography can be found in something more abstract. The photography of Dan Milnor has this spirit. By making the decision to live his photography, Daniel breaths life into each photograph he takes.
Daniel has a passionate, deep love for the insanity of being a photographer, and a desire to be part of the action that all seems to bleed into his photographs. His work has taken him to the rural locals of the U.S., Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The photos included here are exclusively from his trips to Peru where he taught documentary photography and bookmaking workshops (Daniel has self-published over 100 titles). The black and white photos convey a presence, and energy of Peru. The photos put the observer in that same light Daniel was in when he shot them. That intangible energy buzzes on the surface, with no sound, no movement, but a distinct feeling
Daniel was born in Indiana and moved to San Antonio, Texas in the third grade. He spent four months each year with his family at their Ranch in Wyoming. Daniel performed many of the stereotypical ranching duties, often“...up with the sun and asleep when the coyotes began to cackle.” Daniels parents were extremely supportive and fostered in him a fierce individualism and grit typical of the wild American West. Daniel says he owes his parents “…a tremendous amount when it comes to independent thinking, independent living and not sitting down on the job until you are done.” Daniel carried this spirit of independent thinking throughout his scholastic career and by the time he got to The University of Texas, he was writing articles for the newspaper. Daniel had always enjoyed writing, but his photography career started really, with one paper assignment.
Daniel got assigned to cover a bomb threat, but the paper didn’t have a photographer on hand, so they demanded Dan take a couple shots himself. Daniel says, “That [camera] hit my hand and my life changed. I never wrote another article… I lived in the darkroom, made mountains of terrible images and accompanying prints. Wore a vest, bought a police scanner and thought I should love things like war and poverty. I fell in, head over heels in love with this insanity called photojournalism.”
Daniel Milnor’s biggest influence was Larry Burrows, a photographer who’s gripping, in-your-face work during the Vietnam War famously contained the same sort of transformational power. Burrows’ work made you feel like you were interacting with the photo on a level much deeper than two dimensions.
Daniel is interested in creating this same close proximity, much more than he interested in gaining fame. Daniel tells us, “I have no interest in being known as a photographer, but what I love more than anything is being in the field, with those in my images, living as close to them as I can.
Living as close to his images has been one of the many highlights of Daniel’s career. He has enjoyed watching once in a lifetime moments transpire before his lens and these moments have filled him with a broader perspective of who is, and what he is here to do. “I’m a spec on this rock, but there are others who are larger, more important folks and learning about them, meeting them or investigating their contributions is a full time job.”
Daniel is 45 years old now, but says he has a ton to learn and hopes that his best work is yet to come. He is the Photographer-at-Large for Blurb , a platform for creating, printing, and publishing independent books. He is the author of the blog Smogranch, where he displays some of his personal work.