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Erik Danielsen: Photographer

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Erik Danielsen: Photographer

Erik Danielsen grew up in Little Valley, Rochester, East Aurora (where he lives now), and Fredonia, so he’s got a good handle on Western New York’s landscape—and it shows in his deft photography of the region’s natural beauty. You can have a look at Maybe you’ll be inspired to buy one of his works: Danielsen has pledged to give more than 60 percent of his sales on selected photographic prints to AV’s Give for Greatness campaign.

How did you get started as a photographer?

In eighth grade, I found a Pentax K1000 at a garage sale for a dollar right before embarking on a camping trip in Allegany. I came back from the trip with 10 rolls of exposed film; nothing spectacular, but I was hooked from that point on.

What’s your primary subject matter?

I find the lonelier shores of Lake Erie and the deep gorges one finds up in the hills to be incredibly beautiful places. Judging by the lack of adventure tourism in Western New York, these are not widely known places. I’ve been to the Adirondacks and Yosemite and the Andes, and they were great, but I find just as much awe-inspiring terrain right here, if one is willing to see it. Even many local residents I encounter are often unaware of the beauty in their own backyards, and I hope my photography can encourage people to get out and appreciate our region’s natural assets (not to mention keep them un-fracked).

Do you ever feel that the obligation as an artist to record what you regard as beautiful or interesting removes you one step from experiencing it fully? That is, do the camera body and lens get in the way sometimes?

They certainly can. Hiking with others is often an exercise in frustration—theirs, not mine. I do sometimes leave the camera at home when I’m specifically seeking either a social hike or a deeper engagement with the environment I pass through. Sometimes I end up regretting it, but there’s a definitely value in taking the time to appreciate something without having to take a picture of it. Besides that, sometimes you see spectacular things that just don’t translate well into photos—you learn after a while when it’s better to leave the camera in your bag and give your full attention to the experience. It refines your vision.

Who are your photography heroes?

Sebastiao Salgado has always inspired me with the special sense of light he captures that sets his work apart. I still haven’t figured out how he does it, but I know it’s not in any how-to books. Carsten Peter, the guy who climbs around inside glaciers and volcanos for National Geographic, has also inspired me to do things like wander out on lake ice in vicious winds to capture that perfect image of winter’s potential harshness (don’t tell mom!).

Why the Give for Greatness Campaign?

Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve never lost the feeling that Western New York is truly my “home.” I love this place, and I feel that going forward this community has the potential for a lot of revitalization. I want to see it happen, but if it does happen it’s going to be in spite of things like population loss and budget cuts. The Give for Greatness campaign is a perfect example of the lets-do-it-ourselves attitude that can make it a reality, and I want to be a part of that.

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