Photographer’s Q&A – Dave Chidley

This week’s Q&A is with freelance photojournalist Dave Chidley in London, Ontario. His web site is


The family and friends of Trooper Wilson gathered at CFB Trenton, Ontario, for the ceremony in the pouring rain, shortly after 8:00 pm. Immediate family members watch as the flag-draped casket is carried from the aircraft. Photo By Dave Chidley, The London Free Press


What were your first steps in the industry?

I started taking photos while in high school for the yearbook and school newspaper. That led to an interest in photojournalism as a career. While at Ryerson, I shot photos for a music magazine. I got the gig by just calling them up and showing them some of my work. It was really my first professional experience.


When you were a student, what did you want to do after graduation and are you where you thought you would be now?

When I first started in school, I really wasn’t sure where I would end up. But after my first year, I had pretty much decided that newspapers is where I’d like to be and – poof! – that’s where I went.


Dave Chidley with his new camera. (Photo submitted)


What or who are your biggest inspirations?

My wife motivates me to make money, (ha, ha), just kidding. She is a big supporter and pushes me. I actually believe my mother, who was a hobby painter, inspired me to be creative. She and my father supported me all the way into photography.

Today, I am inspired constantly. From a colleague creating a “wow” image to photojournalism (still images) long-term projects, there is so much visual work that makes me wide-eyed. Sometimes, it’s almost overwhelming.

A lot of my personal inspiration comes from the basics around me. When I go for a walk in the forest, it’s like I’m back to when I started in photography: I’m noticing all the light, textures and colours around me. It’s almost like being a kid in a candy store.


Did you have a mentor? How important are mentors?

I can remember Barry Gray, (then photo editor of the Toronto Sun), coming into my class at Ryerson and showing these giant black-and-white prints of pictures he had shot at the Olympics and other amazing moments.

Barry spent time chatting with those of us who were interested and he invited us to tour the paper. I called him and he helped get my “foot in the door” which was a huge first step. That led to an internship where he and all the Sun staffers really did help me.  After that, I was hooked.

Over the years, I have learned from so many photographers and editors that it would be tough to start listing them. But I’ve have found that most are very willing to share skills and ideas. It’s very important to have feedback and guidance at all stages of your career.


Conrad Black gestures at the media as he arrives at court for his racketeering trial at the federal court building in Chicago, Illinois, Tuesday July 10, 2007. CP PHOTO/Dave Chidley


What was a pivotal point in your career?

Being offered a staff job at 21-years-old while still in school. In hindsight, I was incredibly lucky. I left school and have been working ever since.


How important is multimedia to you?

Presently, multimedia is not very important to me. Most of the multimedia offerings I’ve seen have not impressed me terribly. Although, a few have really grabbed me.

I have enough trouble managing still photography. Adding moving pictures and sound to my plate makes my head spin.

I am not against it at all. I took motion picture production in school and loved it. To me, it’s a whole other world. But when I see still photographers trying to do both stills and video, I cringe. How can anyone be expected to do both well???

I will be doing my own multimedia personal projects in the near future but not while shooing stills. It’s another way to “gather” information. As an “information gatherer”, I look at the message more than the delivery process.


Tshidiso, 8 years, sits on his bed at Nkosi’s Haven, an orphanage in Johanesburg, South Africa. Tshidiso is nicknamed “Mr. President” by the residents and staff at Nkosi’s Haven where the orphan lives. He reminds the staff of South African President Thabo Mbeki with his “orderly” behavior and personality. Tshidiso is HIV positive. Image if from a project on the HIV/AIDS orphans of South Africa. Photo By Dave Chidley


How do you ensure that you are progressing as a visual journalist?

I am tough on myself. With single images, I critique them constantly. When I am really down, I look at working on something larger. I never stop learning. I sometimes feel that there is so much to learn with today’s technology, it gets to be daunting. So I get back to basics.

I also teach and lecture students and camera clubs on a regular basis. Every time I do this, I am shown work that is fresh. When looking at students’ work, I often find myself thinking, “hmmm, I wouldn’t have shot it that way”. Sometimes it’s because the work is bad but often it’s because the work is so original and I learn.


What are some of the must-see websites you visit? Please include why you visit these sites (e.g. inspiration, guidance, information, education).

Wow, back to the daunting topic. There is so much out there!

I read and nearly everyday, not so much for the “complaining” but for tech tips and links to other cool sites. When people take the time to post a link, I usually will go there and often find some great work.

I actually read about 5-6 newspapers a day. I have a full subscription to Press Display which has over 700 newspapers listed daily. Talk about overload! I try not to spend too much time getting buried in it.


A Navajo teen plays his guitar inside the Antelope Canyon near Page Arizona. The slot canyons were formed by water wearing a path through the sandstone. The tranquil canyons are one of most breathtaking places I’ve visited. The excursion was one of the journeys I have helped lead as a co-host on travel trips exclusively for photographers. Photo By Dave Chidley


What is your favourite way to unwind?

My wife and I have moved into the country to a tree-filled lot that has about 100 acres of woods behind us. I have a large workshop and I am totally relaxed by building something or doing renovations. I like working with my hands and making something physical (and not another digital file). When I really need a boost, I grab the chainsaw and fell a tree. Look out!


What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?

Maybe it’s: “Get a real job!” (ha, ha)

There has been lots of good advice over the years but I can’t pinpoint the single best one. My goal has always been to do my absolute best on every single job, from “pet of the week” to the really big ones.

Someone once told me that they don’t judge a photographer by their best work but by their worst. I guess the key advice here is to always have high standards.



Category: Photographer's Q&A

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