Skyler Dahan is a Los Angeles based photographer who we were introduced to through industry legend and RVCA founder Pat Tenore. When he looped us in with Skyer, we were immediately blown away by the imagery and how evolved and intimate they were. We hit Skyler up and realized we all could learn a lot from his journey and photography. Check it out below.
Where did you grow up? How did you end up where you are now?
I grew up in Los Angeles on the west side and left for school in New York when I was 18. When I graduated I was hungry to live abroad and experience something totally different so I moved to Paris for four years. My father is from Paris so I had been exposed to Europe at a young age, but I really wanted to live there and experience it for myself. During my stay in Paris I would travel all the time. I made a lot of friends in Greece and traveled the Cyclades and continued to explore the Mediterranean (Tunisia, Spain, Morocco, and Italy) taking tons of photos and meeting tons of interesting people. Living in various different places has been such a blessing and always puts me in perspective. Through years of travel and exploration I ended up coming back to LA this year in order to push my career to the next level.
How old were you when you got into photography?
I was a film major at Bard College and had worked a lot with the 16mm medium. I loved shooting in film because the editing processes was so unique and I enjoyed the rawness of the image. During my junior year I started taking an analog photo course and fell in love with it immediately. I had messed around with film before, but this was so hands on, between developing the photos and spending time in the darkroom I felt so connected to my photos.
Do you remember the moment you realized you had “a style” of your own?
It was during my senior year at Bard College while I was taking a medium format color photography course. Our teacher Tim Davis had taken us out to shoot some street photography where he would shoot photos of random people on the streets. The entire class was impressed to see this and the way Tim would shoot other people was so ruthless. Like he didn’t even care that these people knew he was taking the photo. One day I was waiting for my negatives to be developed in the parking lot of a strip mall — negatives usually took an hour to develop, so I would wait around the strip mall and either grab a bite or read a book. One day out of boredom I started to check out the different strip mall shops and noticed how weird the people looked. Their clothes, their facial hair, their expressions and the way they held themselves together was almost something from another world. So I decided to document this universe and started by asking people for portraits, telling them I was a student. This then evolved into the next phase, where
I would take photos of people without asking, and as scary as this was, the rush was incredible. This was my defining moment as a photographer where the street became my playground.
Where I would really look at my surroundings and find these unique characters that would create a voice for my photography.
Any other outside influences?
Tons of outside influence. Photographers such as Diane Arbus, Joel Sternfeld, Martin Parr, Lee Freelander, Atget, Weegee, Steven Shore, Stanley Kubrick and many others have inspired my work as a photographer. The more research I put into photography and the more books I find the broader my perspective becomes. I like to think that the amount of references are endless and extremely enriching because we are always evolving as artists. Music is also an influence in my life. I play the alto saxophone and listen to tons of jazz, funk, disco and samba from Brazil. The music I listen to at the moment has an impact on my mood and how I go on about my day. Travel has to be one of the biggest influences as well because you are always inspired when you travel. You constantly experience new tastes, new sounds, and new sights making you think in a way that you never did before.
I love to travel alone because you are forced to adapt and to completely lose your ego.
You almost become a different person and meet people that you would have never met.
What have you learned from professors and professionals about the business of photography?
Professors at school gave me the foundation on how to take photos but most importantly they gave me great references to go to when looking to strengthen myself as an artist. I couldn’t tell you how many people I meet in the industry that make tons of money and have successful careers but don’t have any knowledge of film and or photo history. My professors really taught me to dig deep into photography and look at the greats in order to become a better photographer. On the other hand my mentors in the industry have taught me how to hustle and the business side of photography which is in my view equally important.
Whats’ next for you?
I am currently working on a portrait project titled “Convention Center” where I am following various fan groups all throughout southern California. Some of the conventions include a Cat show, a Hempcon, and anime fans. “My Team Your Team” a series that I started in 2011 is an ongoing project about different walks of life from all over the world in which I plan on making into a book in the near future. Finally I am directing a short documentary about the skateboarders in Venice and how their lifestyle is threatened by gentrification.