Chance has taken Photographer and writer Douglas McCulloh to interesting places in his career. As a child McCulloh grew up with the absence of Television – this left a lot of room for creativity. Like any child McCulloh believed that this was a punishment from his parents, but now he looks back and appreciates their decision which made an influence on his creativity and work. Entering college, McCulloh did not know what career he wanted to pursue. He enrolled UCSB as with an undeclared major but after the first year things changed. Hearing one of his friends mentioning how much he enjoyed a photography class offered on campus McCulloh decided to give it a shot, and he loved it. After that was when he continued with the photography career. Street photography is mainly what McCulloh likes to focus on, and some of his greatest influences are Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. McCulloh enjoys using his camera in a fast way, capturing objects and people as they are – not staged. He states “Why not just grab the world” and that’s what he does with his street photography. His favorite things to photograph are things that are not chosen, things or events that are delivered by chance. “Chance Encounters – The L.A. Project” is a project where he would choose a letter and a number which would indicate what area of Los Angeles he would photograph that day. In doing this he covered more than 1,200 square miles. “On the Beach, Chance Portraits from Two Shores”, is a project McCulloh work on along with Jacques Garnier – this consisted of studio lighting set up in the sands of the beach, shooting pictures of the beach goers. McCulloh recalls the long lines that would extent along their set up, and the many photographs they had to email out. At the end of this project so many pictures were taken that they didn’t even know what pictures were taken by whom. In his career McCulloh got to do something as extreme as being able to name a street. He came about this during a silent auction fundraiser, in which biding for the opportunity to name a street was at auction. He became interested and decided to starting biding, after he realized that more people kept signing to bid he gave up. Not knowing that his family and friends were also biding to help him win that opportunity, in which he succeeded and named the street, Dream Street. He saw this as a chance to document the process of the making of Dream Street. The process took about 4 years. In this he followed the workers who built the houses and also the people who then began their lives on Dream Street. About being an artist McCulloh wrote –
“Be well-read. Be curious about everything. Look at art constantly. Figure out who you are. Never advise others about success in photography. Whenever you encounter a rule, break it just to see what happens. Don’t be a jerk. Pick subjects you are obsessed with. Chase them endlessly. Do what you say you’ll do. Surprise yourself at least once a day. Keep secrets. Confuse art with life. Work ceaselessly. Be aware that work does not happen through inspiration, work happens through work. Memorize the words of artist Chuck Close: “I always say that inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
Great advice for photographers – from a great photographer.