Dustin Damron, a 26-year-old photographer can now be added to the list of guests for the green room, and we couldn’t be more proud. He’s worked with big names like David LaChapelle, Alyssa Campanella (Miss USA), Julia Lescova (GUESS model), and Frankie Muniz, but we love him most for working on our Summer Lookbook: Kiss the Sky. I dug up some of his history and found photos with alluring lighting, talk of our new summer lookbook, and Damron’s alter ego that goes by the name of Coco Fluff. That was it. I was sold. So here’s to an interview with the man who is known for his magic touch in the world of light and photography.
JF-How long have you been in photography?
DD-I’ve been shooting professionally for 4 years, but it’s been a hobby since I got my first camera at age 10. It was a disposable.
JF-Awe. I remember the disposable camera days. So from ten years old to now, what has been your biggest breakthrough with photography?
DD-It was probably when I learned the zone system (google it; Ansel Adams was a F#$%ing genius). It’s a method used for shooting black and white film that grants you absolute control over the placement of each tone onto your negative. In a nutshell, you can see the final darkroom print in your head before you even take the photograph. The overall concepts have helped me view my photography in a completely different way; even with digital photo’s and retouching.
JF- Ansel Adams. Got it. I’m so lucky I get to learn so much from interviewing specialists like yourself. Okay, so you grew up in Orange County and now you’re hanging around Los Angeles with the big boys. How has living in LA influenced your photography? Has the city’s environment worked to your advantage?
DD-I’m not sure that LA has influenced my work as much as it has provided über convenient access to awesome models and resources. It’s nice having rental houses fully stocked with whatever you need to bring your intended aesthetic to life. I see Lachapelle’s influence in my work from time to time. It’s hard not to do certain things subconsciously when you’ve gone through the motions and done them so many times for someone else. I try to see through it and hone in on my own vision.
DD- Yes, David LaChapelle would have to be the most noteworthy person I have worked with. I’ve been doing lighting on his campaigns and personal work on and off for the last 2 years or so.
JF-Wow. That’s impressive. I bet he is interesting to work with. So how about Threadsence…? You have recently collaborated with us to make our summer lookbook, Kiss the Sky. How did the mix of you and Threadsence come to be?
DD-I became involved with Threadsence through my special lady friend, Nicole L. Hill. She was hired to shoot their last 2 lookbooks and I came along for the ride.
JF-We had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole for the last lookbook. So what exactly were you in charge of for the shoot?
DD- I was the token lighting dude. Basically, I got paid to run around in circles, plug in extension cords, and point lights at babes. It’s rough…
JF-Yeah, sounds like it! How was working with the crew and that experience all together?
DD- I love the Threadsence crew. They are great people with positive attitudes and an overall awesome outlook on life. It’s been a privilege getting to work with them, and I hope to do some more in the future.
JF-Glad you had a good time. Now, something about the photographs tells me that Photoshop isn’t the one that deserves the credit for all of the lighting and atmosphere that was mastered for the summer lookbook. Tell us how you did it.
DD- A magician never reveals his secrets. I will say that my little friend, Mr. DF-50 (the mother hazer of all hazers) may or may not have had something to do with it. It helps create a sense of depth between the subject and the background, similar to the haze that you’d see when looking out at a distant landscape. I’ve already said too much…
JF-Say no more! I’m grateful to have just a peek into your thoughts. I must ask about something else though. I have been…stalking… you a little bit. It has not been a fruitless ride; I have found your other identity, Coco Fluff. Can you tell me more about who he is?
DD-You had to go there, didn’t you? Touché, Threadsence, touché. Okay. Coco Fluff is your wildest fantasy. He is both myth and legend, bundled into a flamboyant, self-glorifying package. He is his own idol and yours too. I will not grace you with a backstory, but I will open a personal portal into the Coco Universe: Coco Fluff Unplugged
JF-Ah. Thank you. Now, did you (or Coco?) use the glow of your “porcelain skin” for the lighting of the summer lookbook photo shoot? Is that why it is so well done?
JF-Okay. Moving on from your alter ego…who are your most favorite photographers?
DD-Sabastiao Salgado: His book, “Africa” is 300 pages of the most incredible documentary photos ever taken. Also Helmut Newton: The man was so ahead of his time it’s a joke. It’s humbling knowing that I’ll never take a photo with half the mood he conveyed, even with all of the technological shortcuts I have at my disposal.
JF- There are some gifted souls out there. Maybe they have some awesome tools to help them capture those still images. So what is your equipment of choice? If you were stranded on an island and could only take one camera and one lens, what would it be? And why?
DD- Hasselblad 501CM with 80mm Zeiss 2.8T
Reason: Doesn’t take batteries, Zeiss = optical perfection, shoots aperfectsquare negative (very aesthetically pleasing to me…and everyone else who uses instagram), has absolutely zero automatic controls, 80mm lens gives you normal field of view with the benefits of telephoto compression and depth of field, down right sexy with a shutter sound that’ll give you a semi. Oh, and you shoot looking down through ground glass which I, personally, feel allows for greater creativity and more unique composition.
…I’d also need a palette of Tri-X 400 and another palette of the new Portra 400.
JF-Your website offers photos from portraits and landscapes to fashion and conceptual pieces. Personally, what is your favorite type of photograph to take?
DD- Whatever’s in front of me at the time? I don’t really like to compartmentalize myself into any one niche. To me, art is the ultimate form of expression, and I just happen to, most of the time, use my camera to create it with. If I’m on a road trip with a great friend, I’ll shoot landscapes. If I want to get weird, I’ll do a conceptual composite piece. If I get a hankerin’ for some fashion stuff, I’ll call up a model and submit to a magazine…you get the idea.
JF-Right. So looking back when you were capturing some “ultimate form of expression”, What was your most wacky experience doing a shoot?
DD-Probably Alyssa Campanella (Miss USA) and Julia Lescova (Guess model) battling each other in bumper cars on the Santa Monica Pier for Runway Magazine. They would be smashing into each other and then stop, strike a pose, and continue smashing. It was classic. The photos turned out pretty cool too.
JF-Sounds like a hot mess!…In a good way. Have you ever had issues with the cooperation of models or celebrities that you have photographed?
DD-Not really. However, I did force Frankie Muniz to put on a camel hair sport coat and ascot in 120-degree weather at his home in Arizona. He was a good sport, but every 2 minutes we’d have to sop up the torrential sweat rain pouring down his face.
JF-Yeah, it gets hot there! How much have you been traveling because of the type of career you have? Do you enjoy bouncing around?
DD-I travel a decent amount; mostly up and down California. I co-own a skateboard truck manufacturing company called Caliber Truck Co. It’s based out of Santa Cruz, so I found myself up there quite a bit shooting campaigns and handling the branding/marketing direction. I should have mentioned this before on the question of other types of photos I like to take: skate photos are really fun and a nice change of pace.
JF-For sure. I can see that being a good “getaway” from the rest of your work. Now say you had to “getaway” from your work forever. What other career path could you see your life taking?
DD-Art direction or something involving branding and marketing strategies. The whole idea of potentially swaying the opinions of the masses for one’s personal gain is pretty interesting to me. It sounds kind of evil when I word it that way. Still interesting though.
JF-It does sound a little evil. I guess it all depends on what that personal gain goes towards, perhaps. But since you are a photographer, why photography? A lot of photographers also dip their toes into film/directing/producing. For you, why is it the “still image”…Or is it?
DD-I’m shooting a short film in August on Super 16. I’m pretty damn excited to branch out and try something new. This will be a first for me.
JF-Alright. So you are spreading yourself around a bit. I’ll keep my eyes open for that short film, as well as all of your other projects you partake in for the rest of your career! Thank you, Dustin!
DD- Thank you.