By Laser Wolf
Photographer Jim Dugan had been hearing all about this roller derby thing from his friend Katie Haugen Schoettle, a Perfect Storm jammer better known as Miss Microburst.
He decided to come to our Slam Rock Showdown in March armed with a camera, and he snapped a few shots just for fun. We were so impressed with his work that we used some of his photographs for our banners and asked him to lend his talents for our Nautical Knockdown poster photo shoot. Lucky for us he agreed! Check out the poster by Blondie’s Curse, using one of Jim’s photographs from the shoot.
Jim just wrapped up on a photo shoot for our July Bout, the Maine Event. Keep an eye out for that poster . . . it’s pretty amazing. Thank you, Jim! For more information on the Nautical Knockdown DoubleHeader on May 31st, visit our Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/245601525631359/
Here’s a little more about the photographer behind the lens.
Tell us about some of your other photography – what subjects interest you?
I’m mostly a commercial photographer. I take pictures of things and services that my clients want to sell to their customers. There’s a wide variety of products, from real estate to food, portraits to still life. I like it all but mostly I like the variety. If I shot nothing but houses, it would drive me crazy. I have found that people almost never want to buy my pictures to hang on the wall. Or maybe I’ve found that they usually don’t want to pay what I think is a reasonable amount. But I keep doing what is usually called “personal work” and some of it gets hung on walls sometimes.
Such is the case this summer. Three of my “Maine Kaleidoscopes” are hanging at the Thomas Moser gallery/showroom in Freeport, part of a show celebrating 25 years of Monhegan artists’ residencies. I was awarded the residency in 1991 and had six weeks to live and work on Monhegan. Here’s one of those pictures, called Fog, Eat, Strand (30×30 inches, digital print on metal):
Gear-wise, what’s your preferred camera to use and why?
Just in the past year, I’ve upgraded to a Canon 5D. I’d been using a Canon 50D for a few years. The 5D has a lot more detail and low-light sensitivity. So for example, I was able to bump the ISO up to shoot the bout, which made it possible to freeze action even in really lousy light. While there was some added grain/noise, it wasn’t objectionable. I’m usually not rabid about equipment but the new camera is so much better, it makes me want to go out and re-shoot a lot of old photos. I started with film of course, but haven’t felt the need to shoot any film in a few years. I have embraced digital and don’t see any reason to go back.
Tell us about your trajectory and how you got started as a photographer?
I studied journalism at Temple University and thought it would be good to know photography, so I took some courses. After graduation, I worked at small newspapers where I did it all: writing, editing, layout, photography. But a few years of that wore me out and I decided to learn photography for real. I came to Maine to study at the Maine Photographic Workshops (now Maine Media Workshops+College). That was almost 25 years ago. I worked at the Workshops for a while and designed most of their catalogs in the 90s. I did two years as an assistant at a Portland studio, working mostly on LL Bean catalog photography.
Who are some of the photographers/artists/things you take inspiration from?
Hmmmm. Well, there are so many great photographers. I was in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago and went to a huge photo expo called “Paris Photo.” All the best photo galleries in the world bring their best stuff and show it all in one place. It was overwhelming but seeing the old an the new all in one place was a nice affirmation of the power of the medium. That said, I like a wide variety of photography: Paul Caponigro, Eugene Richards, Eliot Porter, Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson.
How has your work changed over the years?
I think that deciding I’d never be the landscape/fine-art photographer I wanted to be was a big step and a good step. Commercial work is good and honorable and I take pride in what I do. I always think of one of my favorite artists, N.C. Wyeth, and how so many people say, “Oh, he’s just an illustrator.” No, he’s really so much more. I like to think that even when I’m a hired gun, there’s a bit of myself in my work.
How did you become interested in photographing roller derby? And what was the first time photographing a bout like for you?
A friend is involved: Miss Microburst. So I went to see and photograph her, but as it turned out, she was injured and wasn’t skating. It was still fun and worth photographing. I rarely shoot anything that moves that fast. And it was my first time seeing this sport, so it was confusing to say the least. I started in the middle, with the referees. They had taped a little square where I was allowed to stand, which was nice but a little limiting. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to limit me. But at the half, I switched to a spot outside the track, which gave me a better vantage point. When I teach photography, I always emphasize that the word photography means “drawing with light.” The light in that venue was really lousy. And I found something really interesting. When I set my shutter speed high, the exposures became inconsistent due to the pulsing of the light. That is, the light was basically going on and off fast enough that our eyes can’t see it. But a fast camera exposure could see it.
Tell us about the photo shoot for Nautical Knockdown? How was it similar or different from other shoots?
The really great thing was that all the preparation and styling was done. Four great models, each dressed in appropriate retro clothes, makeup and hairstyles. All I had to do was show up, arrange them and shoot. We had a little confusion about location but in the end the owners of the schooner Mary Day graciously made her available. The light had been terrible earlier but got really good at the last minute and it worked out perfectly. It’s also worth noting that the models were VERY cold by the end of the shoot. I don’t think you can quite see it but there was snow on the deck. It had snowed overnight and a little bit was left over. It was still pretty cold.
Describe a memorable/unusual photoshoot.
I’ve had so many. One was a house on North Haven, a large property with lots of waterfront. The client and I worked to shoot the house, then he told me to just take a couple of hours and walk around shooting. It was a gorgeous summer day and I had brought my lunch. I just walked the shore, taking pictures, stopping for a picnic. I’m also a kayaker and I’ve been asked to shoot from my kayak a LOT, which is great. Best job in the world.