Behind the Lens with Photographer + Artist Dion Ogust
Inside+Out Upstate NY is pleased to present an exclusive interview with local Woodstock NY artist and photographer, Dion Ogust. Ogust had worked in film, animation, and photography in New York City before moving to Woodstock in the 1990s where she established her freelance photography and photojournalism career. Her work has appeared in Time Magazine, The New York Times, Corriere Della Sera and many of our local Hudson Valley publications. Let’s meet local image-maker, Dion Ogust…
Inside+Out Upstate NY: How did you wind up in the Hudson Valley and where are you based?
Dion Ogust: I grew up in Manhattan and heard about Woodstock from a photographer who came here to visit and photograph his friend, the artist Richard Segalman who sadly passed away a year ago. I just had felt drawn to Woodstock as I heard about it, a place of creative artists.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a photographer, and how did you get your start?
I have truly terrible eyesight. No one realized until I went to first grade and was given glasses which I hated wearing… but they did help. So my world was up close and intimate until then. When I was eleven, I discovered a camera and was intrigued that I could capture a scene and moment from all sorts of distances. When I was sixteen, I applied to an ad for ‘volunteer’ photographers with a local newspaper, Our Town. They ‘hired’ me, and although I was terrified with every assignment, I did well. My first assignment made the front page..
Tell us about your style of photography and your photo journey.
I loved photojournalism, but I soon met a fashion/editorial photographer with a studio, and that was my first studio assistant job… I loved that world as well. I’ve continued to work in both, maintaining my own studio and working freelance for newspapers, magazines and on staff with Ulster Publishing.
To date, who has been your most memorable shoot?
I’ve had so many wonderful moments in photography. I am in awe when people are generous in spirit to allow me into their ‘world’ and trust. Over the years, I’ve photographed musicians in my studio; some played a song while we worked together. Beautiful musical moments by folks like Cassandra Wilson, John Sebastian, Tony Levon, Jerry Marotta, Anjani Thomas, Graham Parker, Jack DeJohnette, Artie and Happy Traum…I could go on. Photographing people on location is another type of experience. I need to figure out the space quickly while talking and gaining their trust. Eli Weisel was the most remarkable in the way he welcomed me into his home and asked me more questions about myself than I could about him. He had a human-to-human curiosity.
What type of camera equipment do you use? Do you shoot videos as well?
I’ve used Nikons forever. I did some video about 15 years ago. The art of editing is fun, wonderful, time-consuming, and technically maddening. I had fun. Then, it was enough. I rarely do it now.
We’ve noticed your creative talents extend beyond photography. Tell us about the other art mediums you’re engaged with.
As photography became digital and printing went from the darkroom to sitting at the computer doing photoshop and pushing a few buttons for the printer, I missed the hands-on experience. I had studied drawing and painting for a few years in my early 20s with Nick Buhalis at Woodstock School of Art in Woodstock. In my 40s, I got back into the art studio with Kate McGloughlin doing printmaking and, from there, back into oil painting. I love getting my hands dirty and the challenge of making work from me, not a camera.
Describe your creative process.
I believe chemistry is important between the people I photograph and me. I aim to get out of the way and be open to see and feel who is in front of me and make them feel welcomed, comfortable, in essence, for the time we work together. And if I’m talking about painting landscapes or working with animals, it’s really the same process.
What is one question you’re constantly asked about your work?
People who don’t know me often wonder if I’m a guy because of my name Dion. I’m not. With photography, I understand it’s important for some people to know who they are working with ahead of time.
How is your industry changing and how are you adapting?
All the arts have changed drastically. Everyone I know scrambles to reinvent and be flexible and open.
How do you grow your business and how do your clients find you?
I’ve lived in Woodstock since the 80s, and working at Ulster Publishing has constantly brought me in contact with many people. So word of mouth has worked best for me, and some occasional advertising in local papers.
Do you leverage social media to get work and how is that working for you?
I go off and on using Instagram and, even less, Facebook. I just don’t like spending much time sitting at a desk or looking at devices. There are so many more things I could be actively doing.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
I have an ongoing personal photo project I’m working on, and I will spend time outside landscape painting as the weather improves. Those summer hours spent outside feeling the breeze, watching the light and nature, and playing with art supplies are the best.
What is it about the Hudson Valley that makes it unique to live and work here?
The folks who find their way to Woodstock and the Hudson Valley have been interesting and engaging. I worry that life here will not be as quiet and appealing as the numbers increase as quickly as they are.
How do you find your support crew? Assistants, hair, makeup, and stylists? By the way, did you know we have an online directory that lists professional services like this?
Word of mouth has been how I find help when needed. But great to know there is a directory.
What impact does your business have on your community?
The community is changing. Since Covid, I don’t see local people on the street and around town as I used to. Everyone says this when we do see each other. I don’t know what the new community will be in the next few years.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
Catskill Art Supply and the hardware stores are probably the most useful for me; Adams Fairacre Farms and other food stores.
What would be your dream assignment?
They are all my dream assignments. I love what I do and if it’s a new challenge that’s as good as if it’s an old familiar friend.
What is missing in the area (or town) that you wish we had?
Quiet streets. Less traffic. Realizing, of course, that most of the world is dealing with real traffic problems.
Who or what is your favorite person, place, or thing to shoot?
Actors, musicians, and anyone who wants to play with the camera are fun. But anyone brave to be open and go deep is also an enriching experience.
Who or what inspires you personally?
My friends inspire me. Some by their creativity, some by their work on expression and connection.
Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to know?
I have met most of my best friends and even my husband through photography assignments. The camera has been very good for me.
What is your current state of mind?
Happy that winter is OVER.
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To work with Dion Ogust > [email protected]
Follow on Instagram @dionogust