David Kingham is an award-winning photographer and published author who leads Night Photography workshops and tours and maintains a blog covering everything from personal and professional journeys to product critiques and tips for amateur photographers. David is also a friend by whom we are continually inspired by and frequently envious. He and his work are beautiful and we consider it our pleasure when he agreed to participate in not one, but two interviews. Look for our chat about his book NIGHTSCAPE: A Complete Guide to Photographing Under the Night Sky (Craft & Vision) in the near future.
s | b: When you and Sean met you were a nine-to-five in a cubicle providing a level of technical support. Now you work independently as an artist and instructor. How were you able to manage that transition? How the hell did you get out?!
dk: There was a period of time where I was still doing consulting work in the architectural industry to pay the bills, having this helped me ease into it, and gave me some time to find my path in photography without the stress of making all my money from it. This year I have been free of that and make all of my income from photography, it is quite liberating and I am extremely proud of how far I have come in such a short period of time.
I was able to get out because I stopped listening to society. I stopped believing that I needed a house, a bed, a TV, a fancy car, etc., etc. I sold nearly everything I owned, everything I own now can fit into one vehicle. Ultimately I stopped being a good consumer that we have been brainwashed into. Simplifying your life and freeing yourself from debt is the secret to getting out.
s | b: How long were you harboring professional photography as a goal?
dk: As soon as I picked up a camera. I simply knew this was what I was destined to do, there was no doubt in my mind. I had found my creative outlet that I did not have prior to photography. Once I found this release I realized how soul sucking it was for me to be stuck inside an office all day, I had no other option.
s | b: Any specific concerns/worries that were holding you back?
dk: Typical fears that anyone would have, how to pay the bills, pay my own insurance, etc. When I first started full time I didn't know which direction to go with the photography, I started by pushing architectural photography because I thought that's where the money is. I quickly realized it wasn't where my passion was though. When following your creativity as a path I've found it critical to fully follow it. Do not get side tracked by money making efforts, you must pay the bills of course, but do not put all of your energy into a path that doesn't light your fire.
s | b: What kind of support (if any) did you feel you had in this endeavor?
dk: I had the support of my family and friends. They likely thought I was crazy in private, but they encouraged me to give it a try and see where it went. This emotional support really helped get through the low times. Financially I had no support by choice, I wanted to do this on my own, I needed the fear to push me.
s | b: You made this decision to offer your photographs for free download, even the high-res images. Why?
dk: The world of photography has been drastically altered by digital cameras and the sharing nature of the internet, old models largely do not work anymore. I was profoundly affected by this TED talk [Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking] which inspired me to trust my fans and allow them to support me. Their support has been incredible and I would not be where I am at without them.
s | b: How has your business changed or evolved from that?
dk: I don't believe it has changed drastically because of this. I only sell prints online which is not a fruitful business for any photographer. To be successful at selling prints you really need a gallery or do the art show circuit, neither of which gave the freedom I was looking for. I do not believe giving away digital images would affect print sales negatively though. Having a photograph on your computer screen is much different than having it on your wall, in fact seeing that image everyday may inspire someone to buy a print.
s | b: At one point, you thought to do Architecture photography, considering its lucre and your connection to the industry, but you were already practicing Nature Photography. Could you speak to capturing the static (the stereotomic) versus the breathing?
dk: As I alluded to early, it simply was not where my passion lay. I was technically good at architectural photography, but I had zero connection to my subject. My role in the architectural field was always technically based, I was not an architect and had no background in the art of architecture. I belong out in the woods, nature is my home and what awakens my spirit.
s | b: Your journey toward a life more dependent upon your art and expertise has had an unanticipated spiritual impact.
dk: Indeed it has, when you let go of control and allow yourself to do what you were meant to do, everything changes. I gave trust in something divine that was guiding my path. Before this I thought the only path was plugging away at the 9-5 (who works those hours anymore?) and climbing the corporate ladder to find happiness. I realized it was not there, only an empty, shallow life with no meaning.
s | b: You travel a great deal right now for your Art and Workshops. Do you maintain a home base? Have your perceptions of or relationship to home changed at all since leaving Colorado?
dk: I do not have a home base, no safe haven. I'm truly living as a nomad. As cheesy as it may sound, home is truly where you make it. I have been living out of a tent for 6 months now and it has been an amazing journey. I feared not having a home would alienate me from my friends and I would be lonely, but I have found the opposite to be true. I now see many of my friends more often in my travels and I have met many more along the way. I do not miss the comfort of a home, in fact if I stay at a friends house for a couple nights I get antsy and the lure of the road pulls me back out.
s | b: You have the new book NIGHTSCAPE: A Complete Guide to Photographing Under the Night Sky (Craft & Vision) and you lead night photography workshops in a number of locations here in the West. Any immediate and/or long-term goals you’d like to share?
dk: Next year my main focus will be on landscape photography tours. I will be taking my clients to unique locations that can be challenging to reach on their own. I have recently purchased a large 4x4 van that I will be living out of and still have room to carry clients to incredible places. It's a way to share the lifestyle that I love with them. I am launching a new website as well called Exploring Exposure where I will have all of the workshops and tours along with tutorials, gear reviews, etc.