Photographer Dana Hursey is a Los Angeles based, Southern California native whose intro photography dates all the way back to his childhood. His stepfather was an avid photographer, shooting editorials for auto magazines, and always having a camera in his hand. He received one of his stepfather’s old cameras when he was in the 7th grade after he was asked to shoot for the school’s first yearbook— and the rest is history. His love for the medium formed then, and ended up being what he ultimately studied in college when he attended ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA. After coming out of ArtCenter, he managed a studio over the course of two years for two LA’s photographers— one shot fashion, the other entertainment/ portrait work. After those two years, they kicked him out of the nest and encouraged him to go to Italy to find work for his own photography career.
When Dana went to Italy, he had the intention of staying there for at least one year, but realized he should have asked a lot more questions before making that big step. He arrived in January, but little did he know, the industry over there was pretty much shut down until June. He was showing his book to many people in Milan, but was being told to come back months and months later. After two weeks, he realized making a living in Italy was not going to be easy, considering nothing was taking place work wise. Dana decided to pack his bags and head back home to Los Angeles, where he opened up his own studio and got back to work. He started cold calling and showing his portfolio to anyone he could get the time and attention of. Pretty quickly realizing the world of being a fashion photographer wasn’t for him, Dana moved into more portraiture and lifestyle work.
For many years of his career, he considered and sold himself as a generalist; one who has a broad capability of shooting a lot of different things. This served him well, and gave him a broad client base. He was doing work for pharmaceuticals, banking, and corporate companies, and simultaneously held workshops and went back to ArtCenter where he taught classes. In the early 2000s, he was hired to create many photo libraries, and a huge client for this was United Healthcare. For almost a decade non-stop, Dana was hired to create work for them until they moved away from California and to Minneapolis.
From 2007-2009, United Healthcare was working with the ad agency Deutsch, and hired Dana to shoot a 3 year, high conceptual campaign, full of nature, people, and still lives. Doing such a big library of work pushed him off more into the direction of what he’s shooting now, which is almost entirely conceptual work. His style has an edge of humor with a quirky aesthetic, and a post-production look applied to his imagery reminiscent of Normal Rockwell’s illustrations. Most of his personal work takes on this sort of feel, and he has had clients coming to him now to apply that look to work they hire him to shoot.
Dana has one dedicated retoucher who he developed this Rockwell-esque look with, but he also does about half of his own retouching. If he’s too busy with other work, or there’s something needing to be done that is out of his wheel house, he passes it onto his retoucher. When developing the style, he started playing in Photoshop to find ways to push a photograph to look more and more into looking like an illustration-photograph cross over. When he first solidified the look, he had an image pop into his head of an iconic 50’s family, and then the idea of a classic 50’s/60’s Santa Claus, and from there the kitschy image process started. Dana was born in 1964 to a close family with 4 older sisters, so a lot of the 50’s and 60’s were brought into his life because of his older siblings, all of which he pulls inspiration from in his work today.
Having a very specific style can put a photographer into a very niche window, but Dana says his work speaks to most people, even if they don’t see it applicable to their company. He mixes a lot of his conceptual work into his portfolio to offer a new perspective for clients, so they can start thinking of a new way for them to take their imagery or concepts. He has gotten hired to do contemporary styled versions of this retro-style work, one most notably being his work for Dean’s Dip. Lowes Home Improvement came across his work online and specifically came to him for work because of his style. There was humor thread throughout their campaign, so Dana was a natural fit for the assignment. The campaign is rolling out now as a part of their movers program. With a tongue and cheek approach, the images show the experience of moving with a fun take on the moments many of us experience during the stressful moments of it all.
It took Dana a long time to loosen up and not be so up tight with what the style of his photography should look like. But now that he’s reached this free form, loose style approach to photography, he feels like he’s in his second career. The first half was meticulous, and this second half is more about just having fun with it. He has cemented his technical abilities, which has freed him up to do the creative work he does now. Technicalities, lighting, and composition happen naturally and very quickly in his work now. He is sure what he is doing now will slowly morph into something else, and he’d be worried if it didn’t! Not only is having a unique “look” important in this industry, but so is the art of relationship building. There are so many photographers out there creating imagery, that it is all about the personal relationship and servicing the client. When it comes to Dana, his clients know they’ll be taken care of and that they’ll get what they are looking for in a fun, easy going environment.