Dale Niles
Dale Niles

Dale Niles

TIFA 2022 Interview with Dale Niles
1st Place winner in Book, Non-Professional, “What Lies Within: The Eclectic Collections of Andrea Noel”

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you develop a passion for photography?

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, my formative years were spent with my family living in small, southern towns in Virginia and North Carolina. Inspired by the heritage of these locales, neighbors, and friends, I developed deep-seated southern roots that richly inform my photography practice with visual storytelling. I celebrate the diverseness of the human spirit, appreciating those qualities that make us delightfully unique, yet connected in many ways, particularly through shared experiences and preserved visual memories. The element of storytelling and preserving family heritage are what fan the flames for my passion for photography.

Q: Could you provide more details about how you captured this award-winning photograph? What was the main idea behind it, and how did you go about constructing it? 

This series started with the suggestion from a friend that I might be interested in photographing Andrea Noel’s collections. I had known Andrea prior to this project, but I did not know that she collected so many eclectic items. When I asked her if I could photograph her collections she was excited about the idea. The next time I saw her I was presented with a long list of items she collected, over 60 categories of ordinary things. 

The first time I went to view the the collections, I realized that I would need additional lighting so I purchased 2 box lights and always carried my tripod. I was often on a ladder when capturing the images. It enabled me a different point of view as well as giving space to capture the larger categories such as the shoe shine boxes. 

Sometimes it was a tight space to photograph so I used an 18 mm lens. The first session Andrea had laid out her kitchen utensil collection. After working on this series for awhile, Andrea trusted me to lay out the items. Her dollhouse category was always set up by Andrea. It was a tedious process to set up 9 to 12 dollhouses meticulously set up by scale and theme.

After over seven years of photographing, I began the book, What Lies Within: the Eclectic Collections of Andrea M. Noel, with the help of a curator and a designer.  

Q: What does it mean to you to get this award?

Anytime your work is recognized is a bonus. Receiving first place amplifies that. 
I am so honored to have received this award.  Your approval makes all my effort feel validated. Thank you for this recognition, it helps motivate me to continue my artistic endeavors.

Q: Photography is a great medium for communicating various messages to people. What are your thoughts on this tool and how do you use it?

A large amount of my photography involves family history and memories. Doing these series is a way for me to express myself as well as preserve family legacy. I love the storytelling element, sometimes based on truth and sometimes fabricated. My wish is that my imagery creates an intimate conversation that takes the viewer to a place of quiet contemplation because it is my visual representation of conversation and feelings. I always enjoy the different interpretations of my images. 

Q: What would you say best describes your photography and your style?

My photographic style is a result of the influences of the women who raised me as well as the fragility of life. My grandmother was a painter, often painting in a darker palette that made you look closer to see the details. My mother was an artist in most of her endeavors. I remember her tissue paper collages on canvas, always with brilliant colors because that is what she loved. I began my artistic endeavors as a painter and this contributes to my photography. I also do montages, combining several of my photographs as well as textures which gives a painterly quality. I love the element of storytelling.

Photography allows me a wide berth of options for techniques, subject matter and creative process. 

Q: What one thing do you wish you had known before you started taking pictures?

Shoot with your heart. Shoot what you know.  Feelings translate into your photography.

I did learn some things with my willy-nilly shooting as I began but that was mostly technical knowledge.

Q: Could you tell us what photography gear you personally like to use? 

I am currently using a Nikon D7000 and a Sony a7. I use multiple lenses on both. On the Sony I use some older self focusing lenses as well as a lens-baby and pinhole lens.  I prefer using natural light when possible but I also use 2 box lights and a reflector and a tripod for low light situations.

Q: What would you say are some essential tools for new photographers?

Photography is prevalent in everyday life perhaps more today than ever before with the use of smart phones. 

Getting practice with photographing (be it documentary or art) takes trial and error and frequent practice will help you along as you get comfortable with concepts like exposure, aperture, shutter speed, and more. Shoot about things that mean something to you. It is reflected in your art. 

There are so many tools available to photographers now, as well as different techniques for processing. Start with the basics and then figure out where your photography leads you.

Having a network of fellow photographers that you admire helps you get feedback on your work. It is also a great support system.

Q: Whose work has had the greatest impact on you? 

Edward Hopper ability to use light and shadows, Sally Mann’s poignant family photos, Vivian Maier’s self portraiture,  Elliott Erwitt’s eye for capturing an image and Maggie Taylor’s whimsical imagination and her mastery of photoshop. 

Q: What are your future plans? Do you have any exciting projects going on right now that you could tell us about? 

At the moment I am working on my series, Fading Memories.  I use old photographs and blur them as our memory might blur over time. I am also continuing to work on several of my other series Animal Lives Redux and Lives Revisited.  I like to work on several projects at a time because I never know when an idea of one might surface.

Q: If you had limitless funds for a dream project, what would you do? 

I would love the ability to travel to photograph a diverse selection of animals for my Animal Lives Redux. I hope to have a book of these images in combination with a story of the creatures that would appeal to adults as well as children.