Lot’s to think about for club members who came out to see Daniel Sundahl Wednesday night at The Inn. Dan is a Leduc paramedic/firefighter who has blended his love of photography with his need to process through and purge his mind of some of the more difficult and traumatic calls that he experiences as a paramedic.
As he works to re-create these calls, he stages the scene, staffed with actual co-workers and equipment that is similar to what was actually used during the call and through this process he can “get the call out of my head.”
He says his other purpose is to help other first responders deal with what they’ve experienced on the job, “exposing the emotional underbelly of emergency services” so that people can see that they’re not alone.
His Dansun Photos Facebook page has 59,563 likes so obviously what he is doing with his photography is striking a cord with his viewers. These days he’s doing a lot of traveling and speaking to groups of emergency services personnel around the world and his work is recognized by many to be helpful and therapeutic for those in the industry.
Even though the purposely eerie, heavily processed look of most of Dan’s photographs is very far from the “purist” sort of lightly processed, let’s capture it in the camera sort of work that most of the club is used to; for the sort of effect that Dan is going for he’s obviously been very successful.
In fact, as strange as it is to find myself saying so, his images even at their most phantasmal have a strange sort of reality that many ordinary, unprocessed, mundane images lack. Re-created as they are from very real, dramatic, emotional and often tragic actual occurrences they speak volumes about life and death and the situations that first responders face daily.
Often as you look at his images you miss at first the spectral presence that may be hovering to one side, and your eye does a double take as you re-interpret the image as a whole. Dan has been working in these situations for a long time and though I can’t remember his exact words, he believes that there are unseen things happening around those people as they struggle for life.
I learned a lot Wednesday night and although I will probably never use most of the processing techniques that Dan graciously shared with us, it was really interesting to hear how these photographs have helped so many people deal with their experiences.
Dan had some valuable advice for us as photographers, regardless of the type of images we make and it went something like this, “focus on something that you are emotional about, something you have a connection with and share that emotional connection.”
Whatever our style, whatever we’re shooting, if there is no emotional reaction, no connection to our work, unfortunately the viewer is unlikely to linger long or care much.
You can see more of Dan’s work here, http://www.dansunphotos.com/
Written by Doug Petry