Sherry Dansby Interview

Sherry Dansby Interviewed : On Capturing Queer Community

We recently had the privilege to interact with Sherry Dansby, a portrait & boudoir photographer who serves Transgender and the LGBT communities.

1. You have won the "Westminster Photographer of The Year award" 9 years in a row. How do you feel about this achievement?

Unlike some photographers who would be very boastful about it… I am very humbled.  I know there are more experienced photographers out there who have never even been recognized for their work.  So I do not accept an award just to brag about it, but more to acknowledge those who are the underdog or rule breakers in this industry

2. Tell us about your first introduction to photography. What drew you into this field?

My first introduction to photography actually is a long story.  But in a nutshell, my first introduction came when I was very young and my dad or my grandpa bought me a little toy camera.  

I remember “taking pictures” with that thing; I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.  Then after that I got a hand me down polaroid and the race was on; I wish I still had some of those…lol.

3. Who were your biggest influences when you started?

My biggest influence actually did not come from a photographer at all… It came from Lenard Nimoy. He actually was going to school to be a photographer when he landed the Star Trek role….Go figure.  But other influencers include Ansel Adams, DeVinci,and a couple friends of mine Yvette Raymond and Anthony Holguin… They all broke the “rules” and broke barriers.

4. You were invited to many red carpet shoots. How has that experience helped you in your career?

Being invited to red carpet events is a great thing; it forces you to “learn on the spot.”  When you are grouped with multiple photographers of various experiences all using different shooting styles you have to learn from both what they are doing right and what they’re doing wrong.  

And it’s not just the photographers; it’s the lighting, the people, and the setting.  I was once in a small hallway with old fluorescent lighting and twenty other photographers plus the lighting equipment.  Talk about using manual a lot….lol.

5. You are passionate about photographing the LGBTQ+ community. What made you choose this as your main niche?

Being part of any group automatically makes you passionate about it.  Since I’m transgender and dealing with epilepsy I’m active in both areas.  But what made me choose this group of people as my main niche?  I wanted to reflect the community in a positive light.  

I’m not talking about the wealthy members but the everyday people.  They deserve respectful, positive, glamorous and quality photos that will bring back those memories just like everyone else.  That’s also the main reason I use a sliding price scale.  Because not everyone can afford $3000 for a photographer.

6. How is LGBTQ+ photography different from any other? Can you give some tips to our readers?

I’m always willing to offer tips to others.  When it comes to photographing members of the LGBTQ+ community the best advice I can give someone is treat them as you would want to be treated.  

For example if you are shooting a same gender couples boudoir session then you need to do your research and ask the client(s) how they want to be addressed.  Pronouns and dignity are big factors in dealing with the LGBT community.

7. How has your work evolved over the years?

My work overall has evolved from a kid with a polaroid taking blurry pictures to knowing what and how to shoot, edit and display those same photos.  But to get specific on just one area I would say posing people and settings has evolved the most.  I used to just have someone stand there and smile.  Not anymore; there’s actually thought and communication with the client that gets the shot now.  I have found that clients actually respect you when you actually include them in the process of shooting them.

8. You also mentioned on your website about a phone call that changed your life, could you tell us more about it?

I’m happy to. I was in the process of doing maintenance on my gear when my cell rang and it was David Levi, an elite socialite in the entertainment industry, he’s also a good friend of mine.  I thought he was just calling to talk about the weather RME.  But he had a red carpet event that he needed a photographer for him he could trust.  

Little did I know that event was a Grammy party hosted by the rapper P Diddy with Paris Hilton as the DJ.  After I got to the event location I was waiting with about 30 other photographers waiting outside.  About three rows back I was able to snap a quick picture of Paris (who is a really down to earth person) getting out of her car.

The other phone call I received some time later was from Ann Thomas the CEO of Transgender Talent inviting me to TransPride up in Los Angeles, CA.  She told me to bring my gear and get up to LA quickly.  It was an event hosted by CSA (Casting Society of America) I went up and shot it and headed home.  

Later that night she calls again and says “go online now” I was like why?  She said “Your photos are trending…” I was like WHAT???  She explained that my photos from the event were being used and shared by the LGBT Center in Tel Aviv Israel.  The largest LGBT Center in the middle east.

9. What do you want readers to take away from this interview

What would I like readers to take away from this is again pretty simple:
Learn from your shots good or bad, blurry or perfect, each image can teach you something. 

Maybe not right away but down the road you may find a client or setting that a blurry photo is actually needed and/or wanted.
Keep ALL your photos; yes even the “horrible ones”. I say this because as you learn more advanced editing or shooting styles you may get an idea for a photo shoot that could lead you into being the next “rule-breaker” in the industry.

10. What advice would you give to photographers who aspire to become LGBTQIAP+ community photographers?

The advice I would give those who are looking into shooting this community is to be open to a sliding scale pay or even no pay.  The LGBT community is very closed in the aspect that for the most part society has not come to accept the whole community yet.  So you need to be an ally first and foremost.  Or have a personal connection to them.  They need to trust you.

Answers typed by Sherry Dansby of Dansby Photography.  Photographs are property of Dansby Photography and PhotoWhoa has permission to use them for this blog post.  Find more about me or even book me at www.dansbyphotography.com I have forms on there just for booking, contact, and blog and newsletter sign-up.  My newsletter is titled “The Flash Of Life”

Thank-you to PhotoWhoa for providing me the opportunity to do a interview for them and their blog.

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