Dave Montizambert’s Story

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Let me tell you a secret? I’m not really a photographer… well I am sort of, but  I’m really more of a light sculptor—I bend light to my will, to my vision using lots of cool geeky lighting equipment then immortalize my creation with my camera.

As a young boy I was captivated by the movie “Shane”, it had me mesmerized. There were dark shadowy night scenes, the atmosphere was huge and foreboding, the lighting was spellbinding. I didn’t understand why it moved me, but I was just drawn to that dramatic imagery and it affected me emotionally—my imagination was captured and enthralled.

Later on when I discovered photography, I realized that it was lighting rather than the camera that moved me and that I needed to understand light and all that it encompassed if I was to create what I saw in my minds eye. None of this haphazard, “no idea how this will turn out”, for me—I wanted and needed full control. Photography is a highly technical art form, just as a painter understands the chemistry of paints, brushes, canvases, varnishes, I too wanted to have all the information locked and loaded so that it was transparent in nature. I would know and understand lighting and create without constraints. It would be second nature, just there anytime, just like breathing…

I hate indoor sporting events because the lighting is incredibly ugly, it crushes my soul. I instantly feel sick, blinded, and completely depressed. It’s like being pummelled by a  2×4 on the side of the head. The theatre on the other hand, is lighting magic, those magicians create beauty, horrors, depth, illusions, you want to reach out and touch the actors, dancers, bathe in the light with them. You feel passion, tension, laughter, tears, all with lighting. And no I’m not gay…

At the tender age of six my mother and I attended the obligatory Parent/ Teacher interview. Miss Manuel, was very polite, and told my mother how neat and tidy I was… she was unable to find any academic achievements of mine to discuss, in other words, “Your son is very stupid, but neat”. Makes sense to me now, I hated those stupid test questions: If a train is traveling at 50km/ hr and the track is 200 kilometres long how many nickels would be left in the conductor’s right pocket at the half way point of the trip??????? Pass the crayons please. Clearly I was not to be university material, I finished high school and got on with my life, teaching and tripping the light fantastic around the globe.

My photographic career certainly didn’t start out all golden—my brother/partner Mark and I started Montizambert Photography, we endured three debilitating economic down turns in a short 15 year span. It’s never been easy to sell photography for advertising—especially in the good old days of physically schlepping your portfolio to all those arrogant, self-centred art directors who don’t know shite……

During the worst of times, Mark and I had to live illegally in our studio, having to ”shower” in a garbage bucket using very little water because the bucket got too heavy to lift to empty…. You become very economical with not only water but all your resources. This was the 80’s when ostentation, shoulder pads, and big hairdos were the norm and not frugal living. It wasn’t easy, but we were determined to succeed, even if it meant eating popcorn three times a day.

And succeed we did, after many years of blood, stress, and set backs, we did it, we became the go-to-guys in Vancouver, we were excellent at what we did, we slowly won over prestigious clients, we threw great parties, and we bought and custom built our dream downtown studio: 4000 sq. ft., no pillars or post, 20ft ceiling, massive cove wall—you could drive a 3 ton truck into this space…..We had it all. Then, the unthinkable happened. 2001 was a very dark year, not only did September 11th shock the world, my brother died of a massive heart attack three weeks after his 40th birthday and my mother died 6 months later of lung cancer! Both were in super physical shape, both were athletes and health nuts! My world no longer seemed to exist, nothing made any sense. At the time you cannot imagine a future, you can’t even get up for tomorrow. Eventually I did with the support of my wife Sylvianne, who showed me how to live again! I continued with my work and I made changes so that I could choose a better future. And this is it! No 9 to 5! No art directors! No stress! My love of light and teaching is now my legacy, I share my knowledge through: “Dave On Demand”, lectures, workshops, DVD’s, books, and magazine articles, so all who love light as I do may create for themselves the vision within.

More about Dave: In 1985, Vancouver photographer Dave Montizambert set out for San Diego so he could take a five-day workshop with Dean Collins – a rock star in the world of photography for his mastery of lighting. Sitting in the front row during a lesson on lighting controls, Dave thought, This is the answer to everything! Dave recorded every word. When he returned to Vancouver, he transcribed the tapes and played them, over and over, in his Walkman during his daily runs around Stanley Park. Lusting for more of this rich information about photographic lighting, Dave returned to California a year later and took Dean’s workshop again. He thought, This way of thinking is the answer to all lighting. With it, I can light anything and do it on the fly! With Dave showing up at workshops and lectures regularly, Dean soon got to know his latest lighting zealot. In fact, before long, Dean was calling Dave to work with him on shoots around the globe, and even had Dave do an opening lighting lecture during the Canadian portion of Dean’s Kodak World Tour. Dave, like Dean, had the gift of making his knowledge accessible to photographers of all levels, allowing them to easily understand complicated lighting theories.

Dave went on to become an award-winning internationally acclaimed photographer and photographic lighting educator, sought after by companies, celebrities and conferences around the world.

Over the last 30+ years, he has created images for the likes of McDonalds Foods, Motorola and Warner Brothers. His photos have garnered awards from Georgie, Lotus, Hemlock, Studio Magazine, CAPIC and Graphex. Dave is part of the Influencer Program at Adobe and is part of the beta test program for Photoshop and Lightroom.

His work and articles on photography lighting have been featured in international publications such as Professional Photographer & Digital Pro Magazine, Professional Image Maker UK, Ranger Finder USA, British Institute of Professional Photography Magazine, Photo Life in Canada and many others. For more than 20 years, Dave taught the highly anticipated five-day digital imaging and photographic lighting course at the Western Academy of Photography in Victoria, BC. He also taught a 13-week photography course at Capilano University in Vancouver, BC. Because of his engaging method of teaching as well as the unique insights he has on lighting in photography and digital manipulation, Dave is a sought after international lecturer whose in-depth talks attract photographers of all levels and specialties. Dave’s down-to-earth teaching approach helps photographers everywhere with his books—Creative Lighting Techniques for Studio Photographers and Professional Digital Photography both (Amherst Media)—as well as dozens of video tutorials that now form the core of Dave On Demand.

As one of the few photographers in the world qualified to teach Dean Collins’ lighting theories, Dave is passionate about continuing to sharing this legacy of knowledge through his new online photography tutorials.