It’s time for another Grantee Highlight! Our Grantee Highlight series is our monthly initiative to get to know our current Individual Arts Partnership and Jade Presents Arts Partnership grantees. Although we posted a feature on grantee Jon Solinger a couple weeks ago, we are posting another because we have 16 Individual Artist and Jade Presents Arts Partnership grantees this year! Our featured grantee this week is photographer Dan Koeck.
Based in Fargo, North Dakota, Dan Koeck photographs in the Dakotas and Minnesota for corporate, institutional, and editorial clients from around the country. Insightful portraits, timing, and sense of place characterize Dan’s versatile style which he developed as a newspaper photojournalist. A native of St. Paul, Dan studied photojournalism and history at the University of Minnesota.
He received a $1,000 Individual Artist Grant from The Arts Partnership to purchase equipment to archive film negatives and slides from the artist’s 32-year career.
Enjoy our Q&A with Dan below!
Beyond other photographers, what sources inspire your work?
People are an endless source of inspiration for me. I’m also inspired by the rich culture of the region we live in. I’m inspired by the people who live here, what those people do, and the places that they inhabit.
What is your daily creative work schedule?
It depends on what I’m working on. I work the hours that work best for the tasks at hand and I structure my day accordingly. I work best with a deadline. It’s also essential to periodically slow down, log off, and look at the world.
How do you approach the beginning of a project?
Good images are created as part of a process. I spend a lot of time listening, reading, researching, and thinking about potential subjects. As I become involved in specific projects, I look for opportunities to express myself and the subject. These days I try to draw on my experience to work smarter.
What is your greatest fear/challenge when facing a new project?
When photographing for a client, I fear that I’ll let the client down. On a personal level, I fear that I’ll lose my creative edge. On a practical level, the weather in this area often poses challenges, and the physical demands of work are becoming more challenging.
What do you do when you get stuck?
I try to keep in touch with what I’m feeling, which helps me focus on what needs to change. I concentrate on what I can control, and I try to remember what’s worked in the past. If there’s enough time to think about the problem, I often generate useful ideas while taking walks and riding my bike.
How does having a community of artists benefit your work?
A vibrant culture of creativity benefits everyone in a community. The photographers I know often discuss gear and techniques. We borrow and loan equipment together. Friendly competition also helps keep the quality of work high.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the field?
Curiosity, courage, and hard work will serve you well. Develop a style that distinguishes you while being true to yourself. Enthusiasm is common; endurance not so much. Know the basics of running a small business.
If you had a chance to do it all over again, how would you do things differently?
I’d find a good mentor for guidance through school and early career.
What is the one question you have never been asked regarding your creative process?
“How important has hard work, perseverance, and luck been versus talent?”
What was the most discouraging feedback you ever got?
The photos in a publication that I contributed to was called “uninspired” by a media consultant.
What was the most encouraging feedback you ever got?
A woman from New York City told me at the end of a photo workshop that before coming to the workshop, she feared she wouldn’t be as talented as the other photographers attending. Before leaving New York, she said her husband hoped to ease her fears by saying, “Don’t worry. There’s a guy from North Dakota in your class. He can’t be very good.” She told me that now she couldn’t wait to get back home to tell her husband that the guy from North Dakota (me) took some of the best photos at the workshop.
What would you be if you couldn’t be an artist?
In my case that’s a tough question to answer. Until I attended the University of Minnesota, an experience that changed my life, I had seriously considered careers as an electrician, and as a railroad worker.