The Meaning of Life in 10 Questions… Dave Hill

There are some of truly creative people in this industry. Let’s face it, you’ve got to be constantly concepting, developing, and executing or you get left in the dust. I’m fortunate to work with some really dynamic and inspiring people, ranging from art directors, to producers, to creative directors, photo editors, art buyers, and print producers. Instead of questions about email blasts, printed promos, and portfolio reviews, I think that it’s time that I put some of them on the spot to show us their meaning of Life. “The meaning of Life” may be a little far flung to answer in only ten questions, but hopefully these interviews will serve to distill some of the inspired and intellectual energy of the creatives that we work with.

In June of 2011, while Chris and I were shooting in LA, we grabbed dinner and a few beers with Dave Hill. Aside from letting us in on a secret and surreal spot to shoot landscapes out in the desert, we spent the evening talking about making pictures, the business of making pictures, and the industry we’re a part of. After we left the west coast, we knew Dave had to explain the meaning of life. I’ll let him tell the rest…

1. Name one actor in one movie to represent you as a teenager?

Ethan Embry in Can’t Hardly Wait.

2. What is your preferred vehicle or mode of transportation?

I got a 2007 Jeep Wrangler in 2010 that I love. Perfect for desert location scouting or just exploring. I also have a 2005 Suzuki M50 street motorcycle and a 2003 Suzuki RM250 motocross bike.

3. What is your favorite beverage for creative inspiration?

It used to be Dr. Pepper, but I forced myself to stop drinking most soda 3 years ago.  I did go though a Monster energy drink phase last year, but I’ve ditched that too.  Now just water and sometimes a Slurpee or Corona. 🙂

4. Name your favorite band/singer and album?

My favorite band/album is Lagwagon “Trashed.”

5. How did you get where you are today?

I started out shooting my friends skating and snowboarding in high-school.  In college I shot for our daily student newspaper for 4 years (UCLA Daily Bruin).  I had a pretty good portfolio after graduating and quickly got a full-time job as the university photographer at Loyola Marymount University.  After a few years there, I was pretty bored, so I moved to Nashville, TN (where my brother was going to music school)

Nashville was a great place to start my freelance work. Lots of music to shoot there, and was a lot easier to pay my bills than in Los Angeles. I worked my way up the music scene there, shooting a lot of bands and album packaging and experimenting with compositing, and shooting band members separately. That style led to me getting an agent and branching out into more general advertising work. After 5 years in Nashville, I felt like it was time to move back to LA. Since I’ve been back, I’ve mainly focused on advertising photography and now film-making.

6. Where do you source your inspiration?

In my 20’s, I used to look through Communication Arts, Archive, source books etc for style and Photoshop references.  I’ve grown a little bored of those though, and find more inspiration from films and even comic books.   I still look through a lot of magazine, Vogue, Vanity Fair, etc.  Natural light documentary-style portrait photography inspires me much more than lit/conceptual stuff these days.

7. What is your philosophy on creating?

I don’t really have one? Make stuff that people will be entertained by maybe!

8. Describe a defining moment in your career that has led you to where you are today?

Quitting my job as a university photographer in LA and moving to Nashville for 5 years.  It was there that I learned how to make a living as a freelancer, something I never would have figured out in LA.  I also got to build my career as a bigger fish in a smaller pond, which helped me gain a lot of confidence that I didn’t have in LA.  It was fairly easy to stand out in the Nashville photo world when I moved there in 2003. I didn’t plan it, but just got lucky.

9. Name one person you dream of photographing and why?

I’d love to shoot a lot of my film heroes…  but mostly Clint Eastwood because he has an awesome old face and I love Dirty Harry and his westerns.

10. If the world is ending in 2012, how will you change your life plan?

I would pump out a feature film, whatever the budget was.  And then I would hike across the Sahara desert.

All of the photos & film featured throughout the post are copyright Dave Hill – Make sure to check out Dave’s work if you haven’t already, and follow @davehillphoto on twitter to keep up with him.