Pro Talk
Dave Black

"Another photographer will say, `I don't know anything about figure skating,' and I'll tell him, `Well, here's what's going to happen; here's what to watch for.'"

Funny how things work out sometimes.

Dave Black majored in commercial graphics design and studio drawing at Southern Illinois University, thinking he'd be an illustrator. But when he graduated, in 1975, he followed his love of gymnastics--he'd been a gymnast in high school and college--and ended up running a gymnastics school for kids. Today he's a top sports photojournalist. In between there was a teacher who was by no means responsible for Dave's shift in careers, but who did point out that there was more than one way for a visual artist to express himself.

"In my senior year in college I had to take a basic black-and-white photography class," Dave says. He shot film, processed, printed and learned his way around a darkroom. His teacher, Bob White, saw something special in Dave's pictures and encouraged him, even suggesting that Dave switch his major to photography. Dave wasn't going to do that--it would mean staying in school beyond four years. But even after the semester-long course was completed, Bob White encouraged Dave to keep shooting. "He said I should come in once a week and he'd give me film and paper, which he paid for himself, and he let me use the darkroom. He even sent me off on these little assignments--go cover a basketball game, follow this player around. Then we'd get together and talk about the pictures. It was all very casual, with no deadlines or pressure for grades." Soon photography became an additional creative outlet, another graphic tool.

After graduation Dave continued to photograph, taking pictures at the gymnastics school. The pictures were displayed, appreciated, even sold to parents of the students. Long story short, Dave's photographs were noticed by the US gymnastics team, he began photographing the team's preparation for the 1984 Olympics, and at the summer games that year he captured signature images of gold medallist Mary Lou Retton.

These days Dave does his share of teaching, both formally and informally. For nearly 20 years he's taught at one or more of Rich Clarkson's workshops, and two sections of his website--On the Road and Workshop at the Ranch--offer techniques and share information about photography.

Dave is also helpful and encouraging to other photographers on the job. "I'll be sitting next to another photographer at, say, the Olympic games and he'll say, `I don't know anything about figure skating,' and I'll tell him, `Well, here's what's going to happen; here's what to watch for.' I've done that dozens of times. I guess I'm a little like Bob White--I like people to do their best, to be encouraged to accomplish what they're capable of."

Dave Black is a NikonNet "Legends Behind the Lens" featured photographer. The current "Legends" story and an archive of profiled photographers, including Dave, can be found at Dave's website is at: