We had the good fortune of connecting with Tori Dickson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tori, how do you think about risk?
There’s a lot of risk involved when pursuing a creative career, big and small, from sharing your work with a dream client to quitting your day job or moving to a new city. It can be pretty terrifying to put things on the line like that when so much is at stake, especially if you’re working as a freelancer and you have to pay rent. I had a full time job working in an e-commerce studio years ago that I absolutely hated and quitting that to do full-time freelance was really scary but I knew it was what I need to do to be the kind of photographer I wanted to be. It hasn’t been an easy journey, I’ve had to take some shit gigs to make ends meet but I don’t regret making that decision. I feel the same way about my move to LA. I moved to LA from Seattle during the pandemic and that was a huge risk for me but I’ve found that when you take that risk, and put that “I’m gonna do this” energy out there, the world has a way of making everything work out. Risks are vital to growth. There will always be failures that come with some risks but keeping perspective helps. Learn from it and just keep pushing. If you’re doing the thing that makes you the most happy (or at least working towards doing that thing), I’m a firm believer that people will eventually feel that energy and come to you to match it.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I feel like it’s taken me so much longer than I like to admit to really figure out my voice as an artists. It’s probably something that is in a constant state of change for most artists but finding that core that makes you, you can be a bit of a journey. I found working with consultants really helped me figure that out. As artists, we often attach so much emotion to our work and it can be hard to edit your own work cohesively. Finding an outside perspective that knows your craft and industry helps volumes! That said, I love working with color and lots of it! I also love keeping a rawness and spontaneity to my images. For me, photography is about human connection and story-telling. I hate things that feel too perfect or contrived, even with still-life and product work. When there’s something in a photograph that reminds the viewer a human made it, I feel I’ve done my job. Sometimes this is a matter of keeping a good energy between me and the subject or model, sometimes it’s a matter of not spending too much time in editing.
It’s been a tough journey to be where I am and I’m still not satisfied, probably never will be. There have been days I’ve been tempted to give up and go back to a 9-5, days where I feel like all I do is bang my head against a wall. Being a freelance artist is not for the faint of heart. It’s taken a lot of determination, a lot of tears, endless amounts of emails and rejections but to me, it’s all worth it because when I do win one, when I get the gig I wanted or made photographs I’m happy with (and of course the client is happy with), I feel so invincible. Even small successes bring so much joy because I’m doing what I love most and nothing is more rewarding than that.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m still a little new to LA and having moved here during the pandemic and it’s been kind of tough to explore when we’re supposed to be staying home but I have really been enjoying living here so far. I lived in the Seattle area most my life so I was a little nervous about leaving the comfort of my cloudy gray city for the bright and sunny Los Angeles but I am loving it so much! Luckily, I had been here before the pandemic and got to see some spots before they were shut down. The Getty is my number one “if a friend visits” spot. It’s so beautiful there, not to mention the great art! I could spend a whole day there for sure. There are so many great museums in LA like the Broad or MOCA. I’d probably drag my friend to more of those if they’d let me. Then of course the beach. I LOVE the beach. The ocean has this mysterious, spiritual power that scares and comforts me at the same time. I’d also probably bring them to as many diners as they’d let me. I’m such a sucker for that greasy spoon vibe and LA is ripe with them!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I always credit my dad as the reason I became a photographer. He is a graphic designer and as such, art has always been a part of my life. I started playing around with cameras he had laying around when I was maybe 9 and he would always tell me when he thought something I took was good. He also gave me my first photo book for my 14th birthday, Annie Leibovitz’s American Music. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent looking at her portraits.
Next shout out would be my partner, George, another creative mind, he is an amazing musician and aspiring filmmaker who holds art to incredibly high standards. I have learned so much from his discerning eyes and ears. Watching him work and seeing the impressive results he produces is endlessly inspiring to me. Having him as a support to my own work always makes me want to work harder and be better. We recently got to work together on a creative project for the first time – a music video for his band – and it was a really good feeling to be able to work with someone not only who’s work and opinion are so important to me but also who I love.
All images by Tori Dickson