Dave Brosha has been working as a full-time photographer since 2008, despite having gone to school for something completely unrelated. I was introduced to Dave's work through another photographer I interviewed last winter, Paul Zizka. I followed Dave's work ever since and loved how he incorporates the natural world with whomever he's taking a portrait of. I chatted with Dave about his path to becoming a photographer and the career he gave up to pursue his passion. Dave dives into the process he went through transitioning and the challenges he faced along the way.
For those who might not know you, give us some background on what you do.
I have been a full-time professional photographer since about 2008. This has not been my profession by trade; I actually went to school for something dramatically different. I fell into photography, or caught the bug and just loved everything about it. Over the last eight years I've taken a crazy and diverse path that started up in the Canadian north. I started as a photographer in Resolute Bay, Nunavut before moving to the Northwest Territories. I spent ten years there, had a studio and all that, and eventually moved east to PEI, where I currently live. I've been fortunate that my photography has resonated with people enough that it's taken me around the country and lately, around the world. It has been truly amazing and I feel like I have one of the best jobs in the world; mostly because every single day is dramatically different than the one before it. I love that aspect because I'm one of those people who can't sit still; I don't like repetition. I'm also one of those people that didn’t get the memo about picking one type of photography and sticking to it. Over the last ten years I’ve done commercial photography, wedding photography, landscape photography, adventure photography. I shot editorially, I've done countless families' portraits, and most recently I really threw myself into teaching photography. Every day is dramatically different and I love that. I wake up, whether home or on the road, to new challenges, new people to photograph, new places to see. I love every moment of it.
You mentioned that you started out in something completely different. Tell us a bit about your path to becoming a photographer and what you did before.
In university I took, of all things, an English and literature degree. I went into that program because I knew I wanted to become a writer at one point. I had the passion but I'll be honest, I wasn't all that successful in trying to become a writer, which bummed me out because I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life outside of that. Overall, I felt like I had this artistic side to me that I wasn't successful executing on in my post-college days. From there I ended up becoming a telephone technician; one of those guys who would climb telephone poles and fix wires, and get people's phones working. I did that job in one of the craziest of places, up in the high arctic in Canada. There's nothing like being thrown into the craziest job ever. I'd be out in -40C temps, in the pitch black and I'd be climbing a pole trying to figure out why a phone wasn't working properly. I really enjoyed it but it was actually pretty crazy. One day about three months into the job, I was out climbing a telephone pole in the dark of night and I started hearing these dogs barking. I was about halfway up the pole. I looked back and over my shoulder I noticed three polar bears coming right towards me.
Oh my god. What did you do? It was probably the scariest moment of my life without a doubt. I managed to climb up high enough to tap into a phone line. It's the only thing I could think of. I was very fortunate that the bears didn't come twenty seconds earlier because I would have been on the ground and there's not much I could have done. I was up high enough that they couldn’t reach me. The mother bear stood on her hind legs and was trying to get me and I was able to phone my wife and phone the cops and it all worked out.
Is that when you went home and said, "Well honey, it’s time to do something different"? It took about five more years, but that experience was the start. It was actually up in the arctic that I caught my passion for photography. I hadn't really ever picked up a camera before I moved north. It was being up there, being amongst polar bears and icebergs and all that kind of stuff that I really fell in love with the craft. I started going out with a little point-and-shoot camera and over time I noticed that I really loved this photography thing.