After working in construction for a year, photographer Dave Moser decided college was the better option and graduated number one in his class from the University of Dayton with a BFA in photography and minor in art history. After assisting for a few years, he started shooting full time in the summer of 1994. In late 2007, he assembled a team of creative geniuses that helped him launch his first “real” marketing effort consisting of unique and quirky mailings. The result was a series of promotions that garnered him national attention and an even greater mix of clients and projects.
Specializing in portraiture, Dave's been credited with hundreds of national magazine covers, worked with many of the top advertising and design agencies in the world and shot for over 100 Fortune 500 companies.
The Universe Rewards Action
If you have a degree in what field is it? A BFA with a major in photography and a minor in art history. College was a transformative time in my life during which I discovered I was a people person. Art history was a profound part of this process. I had never really related to history as it was taught with regard to war and politics; when I understood history through art, through humanity and its exploration of itself, the war and politics seemed to find their place within that context and many things started making more sense.
What was your strangest assignment? I am currently working on a very unusual personal project for a good client—the president of an investment firm. He has charged me with photographing 25–30 of his closest friends and family which he will then hang as a gallery in his office so that he can be surrounded by the people who mean the most to him. He asked me to produce the images in a style I created while photographing a personal project with The Doe Fund, a transitional program to bring recovering addicts, ex cons and the homeless back into society as healthy contributing members.
The style is intense, with faces filling a frameless 16 x 24 print and an aggressive black-and-white conversion showing enormous amounts of detail. The portraits are far from complimentary, in a traditional sense, and can be unsettling, but convey a warmth that overcomes the harshness of the technique. My client understands this show of honesty and “nakedness” and he’s been generous enough to charter flights and limos to facilitate the schedule. I take great delight in this challenge.
Which photographer would you like to meet? I would love to have the opportunity to work through a large project from start to completion with Nadav Kander. His work is intriguing (he shoots images I can’t imagine shooting myself) with an intelligence and elegance and I am in awe of the diversity of his vision and growth as he moves through his career. The diversity between his advertising, editorial and fine art work is brilliant.
What famous person (living or dead) would you most like to photograph? I’m not particularly religious but Jesus of Nazareth would be about as interesting as it could get. I imagine his expressions would hold internal conflict, a sense of love and generosity and unimaginable energy.
Aside from your camera and lighting, what item could you not work without? There is nothing that comes to mind aside from a camera and lens. Accomplishing client’s goals often necessitates additional gear, crew and production, but when it comes to simply taking images they can become a distraction and a crutch. I’m not into gear and technology; I’m into the experience of taking pictures.
Is there anything you would not digitally retouch? Yes, many images fall into this category. I’m often surprised and delighted by how beautiful images can fall together without controlling the lighting and subject; the less I impose the more I am able to look for something I haven’t seen before.
From where do your best ideas originate? I work intuitively and try not to over-analyze things; I consciously do not think too much about my process and spend most of my time with the subjects and in making connections with them; and I try to exploit things that occur that I have neither thought of or planned. What comes from staying open and maintaining fresh eyes continues to amaze me. We are working on “American Housewives,” my current personal project, and I meet the subjects, scout the locations and brainstorm ideas prior to the shoot but when we show up to actually photograph, I never feel compelled to follow my prior notions. We work organically, I may shoot only with available light or use many lights, we may do very little or no post work, and sometimes we really play. Basically it’s about exploring and discovering, working spontaneously and with no attachment to the result, which creates total freedom and brings me back to why I originally got into this business.
How do you overcome a creative block? I try to stop thinking about whatever is causing the block by looking at work, photographs, paintings and anything else. Going for a long walk in the woods allows my mind to wander and helps me forget about whatever the block is.
Do you have creative pursuits other than photography? I listen to music, see live shows and explore music and sounds that are unfamiliar to me. I cook and play with my nine-year-old daughter. And I frequent museums and galleries.
What music are you listening to right now? This is always an eclectic mix, lately I’ve been listening to old gospel/work songs and spirituals as well as John Zorn, Slayer, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, Steve Reich and rediscovering Bruce Springsteen.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? Forced time off—scheduling time with my family that’s away from home. We do quite a bit of camping (and try to get away about four times a year) and I try to get out for hikes in the woods with my daughter on weekends and evenings. With a chaotic and often intense schedule, I try to keep certain activities in place as much as possible: eating together as a family, keeping a community garden, volunteering and getting out to live shows and performances.
What’s your favorite quote? I have been going over the song “Time Trades”
by Jeffrey Lewis and there is no one specific quote from it, but the lyrics are spot on.
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Without exception... The universe rewards action.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? Early on I was very happy to be making a good living as a photographer. I thought this was dreaming big, and in some ways perhaps it was, but if I had let go of my fears and concerns I would have traveled more freely on this path. One of my fears was obsession—not such a bad thing as long as it brings you joy.