Dan Milnor (www.shifter.media) once worked as both a fragrance model and a hot tub installer but is better known as a reformed-journalist, photographer and writer who is now, once again, performing these duties in his role as “Photographer at Large,” for Blurb Inc., the world’s premiere indie publishing platform. He splits his time between Los Angeles and Santa Fe and owes most of his success to several “Shifter-types” who were kind enough to help him along. He is a husband, brother, son and uncle four times over. He is partially fluent in Spanish, can kinda still ride a skateboard and just picked up a guitar for the first time ever, something he now regrets not doing decades ago. A compulsive journal-keeper, he believes in the power of print, taking one’s time, slowing down, reading paper books, casting off the shackles of social media and talking to one’s neighbors if you really want to know what is going on in the world. He is disappointed in the power of celebrity, American architecture, for the most part, and how mobile phones have reduced most of the population to complete and total zombies. He dreams of downsizing, writing something memorable and living somewhere in Latin America. Shifter, a website which Dan authors, lives at the intersection of sound, form and voice, acting as both a visual experience as well as an archive of the creative life. Audio interviews, portraiture, long-form essay and the almighty power of the print merge to form a site that seeks to find and display what drives those who shift our perspective on life as we know it. Dan has taught at Art Center College of Design, Academy of Art University, The Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, Los Angeles Center of Photography and the Photo Experience Workshops. His work is in the collections of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The George Eastman House and The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and he’s currently working on a series of classic photo-essays which revolve around Blurb users who are living artistic, creative lives.
LACP Interviews Dan Milnor
LACP asks Dan Milnor ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography
Los Angeles Center of Photography: What kind of photographer are you?
Dan Milnor: I m a guy who makes snapshots. I didn’t used to be but I am now, and I’m loving every minute of it. I make work mostly for personal books and journals, chronicling daily life.
LACP: How long have you been photographing?
DM: Shot my first assignment in 1988, but did my first photo album in 5th grade.
LACP: Where did you get your training?
DM: My education is from The University of Texas (Photojournalism) but most of what I learned was from trial by fire in the field.
LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
DM: Well, I knew I wanted to record things from about third grade on, but it wasn’t until I figured out you could actually make a career with a camera that I decided to make a go of a life in photography.
LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?
DM: I quit photography three times. 1997, 2010 and I’m planning to quit again sometime in the next few months. Quitting is the best thing I’ve ever done and the only reason I’m still around photography. I know this might sound flippant but it’s not, and I’m dead serious.
LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
DM: Outside of time, health, relationships, family and financial gain? No, nothing.
LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?
DM: I’ve leaned a better understanding of light and movement. I’ve also learned a tremendous amount about human behavior and the power of being able to actually see the nuance of life. I’ve learned how to pay attention and also how to wait. And I’ve learned to love moments of abject failure.
LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?
DM: Mostly bookmaking classes.
LACP: What do you love most about teaching?
DM: The fact that something I might take for granted could lead someone else to a breakthrough.
LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
DM: Spend at LEAST five years doing your own work before you ever think of doing anything professionally or commercially. The most important thing you can do with a camera is make your own work, and most of the time that is very difficult to accomplish while working for other people. Learn what it is you do that nobody else does.