Creative: Conversation Series, David Butow

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Welcome back to the “Conversation Series” with this week’s guest photojournalist David Butow. David and I met several decades ago and I’ve followed his career ever since. Photojournalism is a semi-misunderstood field but still serves as one of the most critical functions of photography, at least in my opinion.

Working as a photojournalist involves training, a vetting process, and a serious responsibility. I’ve always viewed David as one of the “good guys” in this industry. His skill and commitment behind the camera are revealed by both his coverage and his awards. David worked in locations like Afghanistan, Myanmar, Iraq, Peru, and others. He covered stories on post 9/11 New York, the Palestine/Israeli Intifada, the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the China earthquake in 2008, the funeral of Nelson Mandela, the Hong Kong protests of 2019, and spent the last five years covering politics in Washington. His list of awards includes World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, Photo District News, National Press Photographers Association, White House News Photographers’ Association, Communication Arts, and more.

David and I discuss his photographic origin story, his early training, his rise through the newspaper and magazine worlds, his work with US News & World Report Magazine, personal vs professional projects, the arrival and impact of the Internet and social media, and his incredible experience covering the events of January 6th, 2021. We also discuss his book “Brink,” which details the entire arc of American politics from late 2015 to early 2021.

As important as what we discussed is what we did not get to discuss due to time restraints. This is good news for all of you because it means there will be a second episode of my conversation with David. My goal with these talks is to introduce you to working photographers. Their life, their story, their training, their experience, and their understanding of what it means to dedicate your life to photography. In a world of influence, these are the folks that are actually rising at dawn to bake the bread.

Photo above: Roman Cho

Photo below: Balazs Gardi

Violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, United States on January 6, 2021.

Comments 4

  1. I so love all these things you write about in the Shifter. I wanted to write about David Butow. For me, he is one of the most visually articulate photographers working in Washington, D.C.
    and beyond. He makes images that surprise, captures moments that might seem small while at the same time are critical. If I were still a photo editor I would hire him without hesitation.
    I think he somehow connects with moments, he’s paying deep attention to what’s going on, and maybe there is also an intuitive sense of what is before him. I’m so glad you are writing about him.
    I have written to him before and thanked him for his work and I can go back again and again and look at his work and I always find something else I hadn’t noticed before. His photographs
    shine with simplicity at the same time they are filled with secret messages if only we take the time to stop and study his work. Thank you so much for writing about him. Maggie Steber

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      What a lovely comment Maggie. I’m sure David will appreciate this. My experience with photojournalists is that they come in many shapes, sizes, flavors, and dispositions. David always feels like the calm person in the room and ALWAYS has a sense of humor, which goes a long way with me even though much of his work isn’t humorous. He’s also been doing his brand of photojournalism which as we both know, is far from easy.

  2. I met David a couple of years ago in Visa in Perpignan and we had great fun. He is a true gentleman and an amazing professional, someone that is worth listening. Thanks Dan!

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