“My identity as a queer artist and my passion for visual storytelling fuel my dedication to capturing these emotions in my work,” says photographer Daniel Blake (he/him/his) to the Phoblographer in an interview. “It’s about showcasing the beauty of vulnerability and the complexities of the human spirit. Being able to evoke emotions and create that bond with my audience is what drives me as an artist.” Dan continues to state that he’s sharing a part of his soul and inviting others to join him on an emotional journey. This idea permeates through his surreal photography.
For Daniel, photography has always been a way for him to express himself when words fail him — and several other artists and photographers can relate. In the way that many readers were beguiled by the words and skill of Shakespeare, it’s easy to become smitten with his conceptual and surreal photography. And for Daniel, it’s always been about expression — specifically around the emotions that he’s feeling.
“Over the last few years, my focus has been on exploring deep emotional themes that resonate with me: heartache, loneliness, love, and melancholy,” he tells us. Daniel’s journey as a queer photographer has shaped his photographic style. It shows a unique perspective that it hard to see or find amongst many photographers.
I’ve been particularly fascinated by the way memory fluctuates and influences our realities. It’s incredible how our minds can warp our perceptions, sometimes in ways we adore, and other times, we despise. This aspect adds a profound layer to my work, inviting viewers to ponder their own memories and emotions.Daniel Blake
The Creative Journey of Daniel Blake
Dan started out around 2009 — when Tumblr was all the rage. A self-described shy kid, he took a lot of self-portraits. Sometimes his father would help him realize his creative dreams, but otherwise, his work was often created alone. Dan drew inspiration from the surreal artwork on Flickr, which is where we found him.
Dan wanted to be a photographer from a young age, but thought that it was an unattainable dream — and he didn’t want to specialize in wedding photography. But as Dan continued to explore emotionally charged themes in his work, he started using it as his primary way to communicate his sense of isolation and vulnerability.
“During high school, I pursued photography courses and even volunteered for a photojournalism program in my senior year,” he tells us. “Around the same time, I was diagnosed with severe panic disorder, which further influenced and deepened the emotional aspect of my art.” From there, he went to community college, took a break while exploring his identity, and then returned to college, focusing on graphic design. But photography was always the main squeeze.
Dan’s embers for photography sparked into flames when he discovered drag culture via his partner at the time. Specifically, it renewed his passion for nightlife photography. “Every weekend, I ventured out alone, documenting moments with my camera,” he tells us. “Although I sometimes collaborated with others for self-portraits, I predominantly captured them on my own still. Surprisingly, I even took the stage, performing in several drag shows and later hosting them through my small project, the Grand Artists Guild (G.A.G.).”
For the money, he assisted a wedding photographer until upgrading his equipment to a Sony a7 III and a few lenses. This eventually led the way to him booking his own weddings until he registered as a legitimate photography business this year in 2023. To help clarify that statement, we mean that he’s gainfully employed this way.
My journey has been one of growth, resilience, and pursuing my passion relentlessly. Through photography, I have found a way to connect with others, express myself, and create lasting memories for my clients. It’s an honor to now be a part of the photography industry and contribute my unique perspective and artistic flair.
Formerly a Canon and Nikon shooter, Dan felt that his gear couldn’t keep up with his creative vision. So he got a Sony a6000 until upgrading to the a7 III. “When I hold and use this camera, it evokes the nostalgic charm of traditional film cameras, which I absolutely adore,” he tells us. “Although I’m not particularly drawn to the process of film photography, the Sony a7 iii captures the essence and style I love.” He pairs the camera with 85mm, 50mm, 24-70mm, 30mm, and 14mm lenses. He also always has an ND filter.
Dan does a combination of in-camera work and Photoshop. In fact, he admits that he used to struggle with Photoshop, but now he’s more comfortable with it. He used to do most of his work in the program, actually, until he realized that it’s sometimes faster to just get things done in-camera. “…I believe both approaches hold significance, but I find myself enjoying the editing process immensely, and it remains a significant aspect of my work.”
On AI in Photography
Sure, Dan does a lot of work in Photoshop, but he’s also a bit skeptical about AI. When he started seeing the TikTok trends, he thought it would fade away. But it didn’t. “On one hand, I recognize the potential of AI as a powerful tool that can significantly improve workflow, helping with tasks like object editing, clothing fixes, and adding elements not readily available,” he shares. “Art, being subjective, can benefit from AI’s enhancements. Yet, I also notice some individuals using it for their headshots and other purposes, which raises a sense of uncertainty.” Dan hopes that AI serves as an aid in the future to enhance artistry rather than replace it.