Melissa Dilger


How old were you when you knew photography was for you? How did you get into it?


Haha, that is indeed a funny question. I think I have followed around my friends and family with my nosey "point and shoot" for as long as I could possibly remember! Grammar school and beyond - disposable camera after disposable camera.

At the time, I hadn't realized the value in what I was doing. At that time I was just capturing the room how I felt it, how It looked to me. And then one day I realized it wasn’t that spontaneous at all, I was in fact developing my own technique - my own style of seeing every detail around me. I preferred the candid moments, those that are really real, not a stagnant group shot in front of some poorly lit background with a bunch of cheesy smiles that look the same in every snap... (not that I don’t adore a well documented hudle among those I consider important in my life! haha) but ideally, I am after what was really going on. I want to SEE that room, or that vacation, or that memory. Not try to decipher what a caption is trying to tell me and act like I am reliving it completely. The only way to see something as it is, is to look for those unplanned elements, the moments before the group huddles close for "that one" shot. I find my inspiration there, and that’s what set me on my course even back then.

I had worked at Jive Records for 4 years prior to my "official" launch into this photography realm - The creative department dream of a lifetime. I was constantly inspired, always learning, and thrown right into the fire of photography and all of its elements before I had enough time to actually blink. I think it happened because it was supposed to. Not that I had actually set out for it. I just let the cameras and the opportunities find me.

I started finding an appeal in reviewing other colleagues work when I could really feel what a person was feeling in the photograph through the tiniest unplanned portrayal of information. Perhaps in someone's closed eyes, a smile off in the distance, a hair out of place - it was these in-between "stolen moments" that drew me closer into this line of work. I wanted to set out to find these things each and every time I picked up my camera and focused my lens. Suddenly I wanted to be the one to survey it and spread the emotion to other people.


Biggest influences?


The history in my family, for starters. I come from a long line of creative family members - and that was really key in my up-bringing. I think having my grandparents hand me crayons and tell me it was "ok to color outside the lines’"was what put the wheels in motion. Strange how I so vividly still remember that.

I also have to admit that my fiance, Luke Ditella, has been a tremendous influence and support - I have one particular photo I look at of him that marks (to me) when I was going to start to take this photography business more seriously. I didn’t realize what I had in my skillset till I tried it out on him - he is never afraid to be my guinea pig - It is all about challenging myself and trying new ideas, angles and light sources - and he is forever patient with me while I am finding my own way.


Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?


Don’t give up, don’t stop. The world is always going to be hungry for visual stimulus. I say, keep going. Find someone you admire and follow along through their journey - Find inspiration in your every day. There is no right or wrong when on a creative hunt - there is just finding something else you didn’t know existed... both in yourself, as well as around you. Your audience will recognize that in your work and that is the fuel that keeps the fire going - don’t lose sight of it!


When did you realize you had made it as a photographer?


Haha! I don’t know if anyone knows if they have ever made it! I think that's the point. EVERYONE is always trying to learn something new. There are endless scenes to set and limitless ways to do it. So much to be studied, so much to try on your own. I think you know you’re right where you need to be when you feel IT. IT tells you you’re going to do something with this talent you have. In my own corner of the world, I feel like I am there. But I also never lose sight of the fact that I still have so far to go - It has been important to maintain the idea that we are all in it together. A creative’s job description is to create! And together this industry does just that. I think if you can network, and then tie it together, you can begin a ripple effect in the business. One that may be setting the stepping stone for some one else. I love that. I think that appreciation is what tells me I am a photographer.


What have been your favorite moments as a photographer? (I ask because it is something in your drop down menu on your website...)


I think my absolute favourite moments are, honestly, the ones I’ve never captured. There is so much time in a single day where a photography opportunity is missed. I used to be sad about that (even before this was in my line of duty to care). After kicking myself time after time for missing a moment, one day it clicked. I woke up and told myself that my opinion on said "loss" was ridiculous. Existing as a wallflower is no way to understand your subject or your surroundings.. sometimes you have to set the camera down and go out and live these moments yourself. In order to even remember how to find and shoot what it is you are looking for anymore, one still has to get out there and feel it. It is in these, that I am my happiest.

Move over November, it's Movember.
Nineties Nostalgia with Todd Oldham and Cindy Crawford

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