8 Questions with Preston Gannaway - a Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer

As an independent documentary photographer and filmmaker, Preston Gannaway focuses on intimate stories about American families and subcultures. Her story on the St. Pierre family, Remember Me, was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

As a participant in the Dickerman Prints Artist-in-Residence program, Preston completed a new series of photographic prints from her Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea project. We recently sat down to chat with Preston about her life and career, as she prepares for the upcoming The Residents: Volume III event.

 Bathing, by Preston Gannaway Bathing, by Preston Gannaway

DP: What does photography mean to you?

PG: Photography for me personally is a language, a creative outlet, a way to affect social change, a livelihood, a shared human connection, a reminder of beauty, a way to understand the world. It’s so many things.

. . .

You spent years working in the newspaper industry before moving on to freelance work and passion projects. Can you speak a bit to that transition?

 Twins, by Preston Gannaway Twins, by Preston Gannaway

I was frustrated with the newsroom barriers I hit while trying to do work I felt was important. I realized that too often my goals were at odds with the newspaper’s goals; it seemed like the right time to leave. My partner got a job in San Francisco so we decided to move West and and for me to give freelancing a try.

A lot of the work I do is still the same, most of my clients are newspapers and magazines. But I have so much more Flexibility to choose how I spend my time. Almost three years later, I miss the paycheck but I can’t imagine going back. Ultimately, I don’t want anyone else to be able to claim ownership over my work.

. . .

Your work focuses on documentary photography; specifically, intimate stories about American families and subcultures. How did you become drawn to this genre of photography?

I think I grew up always feeling like an outsider. I suppose many of us did. Because of that, I’ve always been drawn to people who operate outside of the mainstream. Even as a child I felt that way, so it was a natural thing to be drawn to in my work life as well. In terms of the intimate work, I was lucky to be trained by a photo editor I had at the Concord Monitor named Dan Habib when I was first starting out. Getting photographs of intimate moments was a job requirement. And then I saw how effective it could be.

. . .

To create such intimate portraits, you must spend a lot of time with the families you photograph. How do you choose your subjects and develop these relationships?

 Sledding, by Preston Gannaway Sledding, by Preston Gannaway

Relationships are crucial to my work but they can be built over a span of minutes or years. Being genuine and honest is a big part of it.

I find if I’m comfortable with myself and what I’m doing, it helps put people at ease. I try to be non-threatening and unassuming. I don’t carry a lot of gear with me. That said, some people are open to being documented and some aren’t, it’s important to spot the difference. I try not to push people.

. . .

Can you tell us one of your favorite stories from your career?

I got to spend a day with President Obama while he was still a senator campaigning for the New Hampshire presidential primary. He was very personable, as was his staff. It was one of those days on the job that was filled with seemingly insignificant details that I’ll hold as cherished memories for a lifetime.

. . .

What projects are you working on during your residency at Dickerman Prints?

I recently published a book on my project, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. During my Dickerman residency, I’m focusing on creating an exhibition of the work. I’m really happy to have this opportunity.

. . .

 Watermelon, by Preston Gannaway Watermelon, by Preston Gannaway

Winning the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography is an incredible accomplishment. Congratulations! How did that come about? What was the process like?

Thank you! Yes, it was an amazing honor. From 2006 to 2008, reporter Chelsea Conaboy and I documented a family as they dealt with the mother’s terminal cancer. We following Rich and Carolynne St. Pierre, and their children, through her sickness and during the grieving process.

The award was for that photo story. I submitted it for consideration. Though I must admit, I was in total shock and disbelief when I heard it won. Rich came with me to the newsroom as the news was made public. He also attended the ceremony at Columbia University in New York with me. We’re close friends now and I’m still documenting the family today.

. . .

What advice do you have to those among us who dream of following their passion and turning fine art photography into a career choice?

 Oysters, by Preston Gannaway Oysters, by Preston Gannaway

What advice do you have to those among us who dream of following their passion and turning fine art photography into a career choice?

I’m still trying to Figure out if fine art photography can become part of my career! I mean, at least from a business standpoint. I’m grateful to have editorial photography help pay the bills. But one of the things I’ve learned recently is how beneficial it is to connect with people one-on-one. It’s really tough to make those connections from a cold call. I’m a big proponent of portfolio reviews as a way to get your work in front of someone you’d like to work with.

. .

Thanks so much!

Thank you! And thanks again to everyone at Dickerman Prints for supporting this project!

 Plankers, by Preston Gannaway Plankers, by Preston Gannaway

To meet Preston and see her latest work from Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, be sure to stop by opening night of The Residents: Volume III - Friday, December 4, 6-9pm at Dickerman Prints Gallery - 1141 Howard Street, San Francisco.

Click here to learn more or to RSVP

Opening Reception - Friday, Oct 24th - Open Studios

Art Span’s Open Studios at Dickerman Prints - Opening Reception, Friday, Oct 24th (6-9pm) - RSVP on Facebook

Dickerman Prints, the full-service custom photo lab in San Francisco’s South of Market district, is pleased to announce the opening of their annual Art Span Open Studios with an opening reception scheduled for Friday, Oct 24th (6-9pm). 

This year’s list of photographers includes: Colleen Mullins, Lennell Allen, Seth Dickerman, Melisa Phillips, Barry Barbour-Duncan, Audrey Heller and Daniel Leu.

Please join us in celebrating local photographers and the continuing efforts of Art Span’s Open Studios Friday evening, Oct 24th (6-9pm).

About Dickerman Prints

Dickerman Prints is a full-service custom photo lab in San Francisco, producing photographic and archival pigment prints to the highest standards. Their Polielettronica Laserlab, a state-of-the-art silver halide photographic printer and processor, is also available for D.I.Y. printing. Customers are free to use one oft four Macintosh workstations, or work online directly from their studios. Dickerman Prints loves to offer guests complimentary organic espresso and teas.

About SF’s Open Studios

SF Open Studios is the oldest and largest open studios program in the country, featuring an annual, month-long art event in October that showcases over 900 emerging and established San Francisco artists in their studios. Each weekend, art patrons, admirers, and collectors venture out on self-guided tours to see as many SF Open Studios artists and their artworks as possible, in the hopes of finding their next true art love. The event connects collectors with artists for engaging dialogue and a glimpse into the life of the working artist; SF Open Studios simultaneously helps artists build their mailing lists, gain new admirers, and ultimately sustain a living making art.

Sailing Indonesia

A wonderful part of photography is living life vicariously through the lens of others. Through these beautiful images shot by Bay Area based Dennis Anderson, we're able to travel on KLM Dunia Baru, a 150' long ironwood vessel just completed in Indonesia, on her madiane voyage, sailing through some of the most pristine and remote areas of the South Pacific.

Below are the words and photos from commercial and residential photographer Dennis Anderson who graciously shared them with us here at Dickerman Prints.

This is the maiden voyage of the KLM Dunia Baru, a 150' long ironwood vessel just completed in Indonesia.  The boat was hand built by a group of 30 Konjo and Bugis tribal members who have a 1000 year maritime history. Wearing flip flops and wielding chain saws and hand made tools, they set up on a riverbank in Kalimatan ready to receive one of the last legal barge loads of ironwood to be cut in Indonesia.  It took them 4 years non stop to build and float the hull.

My friends Frank and Jeni were the project managers for the owner and worked on the boat for 6 years.

Finish work and engines and sail rigging were completed in Bali. I made two trips to photograph the ship for the owner. The first, a work in progress set of shots, and a chance to collect and curate all the snap shots taken of the early construction in Kalimatan. Then in Dec/Jan 014, I was hired back to go on the maiden voyage and make marketing photos for potential upcoming charters. More importantly to me, I took on the title of artist in residence, free to shoot whatever caught my eye.

This truly epic adventure was a 1200 mile, month long exploration of some of the 17,000 islands and varied tribal people of the Indonesia sea. Let me describe one especially meaningful stop. 

Early in the voyage we returned a number of the original builders to their home in Ara, a village in Sulawesi where  boats are still being built on the beach.  The Mullahs and elders performed the final blessing to Dunia Baru by sacrificing a goat on her decks, and hanging the feet from the bow and stern.  

The next day the entire village, maybe 250 people, all came on board with the roasted goat and enough other island food to host a feast and celebration for everyone. The remaining crew felt greatly relieved as all the traditional forms had been competed.

Then free to roam we visited, dove, and snorkeled in Komodo, Ambon, and in Raja Ampat, New Guinea. This marine haven is part of the South Pacific's Coral Triangle.  It is an extremely remote area which retains more diversity and quantity of marine life than anywhere else left on the planet. Its accessible by charter boats from Sorong, which has an airport. 


And if you are interested and happen to have an extra 80K laying around, you too can charter her for a week relaxing and sailing around in style.

Dennis Anderson is an internationally known commercial and residential photographer whose fine art photography is in the permanent collections of both the New York and S.F. Museums of Modern Art. 

A native of New Jersey Anderson received a B.A. in art from Antioch College and then studied under Imogene Cunningham. As an accomplished master of lighting, Anderson has traveled to Asia, South America and throughout the United States shooting feature assignments for the designers and owners of homes, restaurants, and resorts. His photos have appeared in numerous books and magazines including Architectural Digest, Hospitality Design, Interiors, Maritime Life and Tradition, Vogue Living, Resorts and Great Hotels and Rolling Stone. . He presents a series of photography and lighting seminars around the country as a member of the Distinguished Speakers Series of the American Society of Interior Designers.

Aya Brackett's New Book, "Bitter"

We were happy to receive an email from the multi-talented photographer Aya Brackett yesterday with the announcement that her new cookbook Bitter is freshly on shelves published by Ten Speed Press.

Written by Jennifer McLagan,  a renowned chef and food writer, Bitter is full of researched information, pithy writing, sharp photography, and incredible recipes - essentially, it should not be missed. For more info, check reviews & interviews: The Washington Post, Huffington PostGardenista

Pip-UP Show at Dickerman Prints - Sept 26th!


Pin-Up Show
Opening: Friday, Sept 26th (6-9pm)
@Dickerman Prints
1141 Howard St.


Dickerman Prints, a full-service custom photo lab in San Francisco’s South of Market district, is pleased to announce a one night audience participatory photo show where viewers are encouraged to bring their favorite prints and pin them the wall with 50% of sales benefiting the SF non-profit “Sixth Street Photography Workshop” which brings photography to the residents of SF’s hotels and shelters on the Sixth Street corridor. The other 50% of sales going to the photographer. An opening reception will be held Friday, Sept 26th from 6 till 9pm.

There is no cost to participate, and all are welcome. Bring a favorite print (or prints under 16”x20”), and we’ll provide the magnetic pins for you to hang them with. Price your photo(s) accordingly. Browse others’ works on display while enjoying a complimentary glass of wine or a cold beer and mingle with local photographers. Buy a print from another photographer, if you wish. Your money will help to support “6th St Photography Workshop” which brings the art of photography to the homeless and transient residents living in the 6th St corridor. A great evening socializing with other Bay Area photographers and helping to support a wonderful local organization! Plus, maybe you’ll sell a print or two!

Viewers will also choose a photo to win a “Viewer’s Choice” printing package prize worth $200 redeemable at Dickerman Prints.


Pin-Up Show
Opening: Friday, Sept 26th (6-9pm)
@Dickerman Prints
1141 Howard St.


About “Sixth Street Photography Workshop”

Sixth Street Photography Workshop works primarily with adults. Its photographers understand the challenges of high crime inner-city neighborhoods. They live in Single Resident Occupancy hotels, transitional housing, and have been homeless. In the photography workshop, they pursue personal work, and participate in artistically directed group projects. Sixth Street Photography Workshop has established a productive artistic community within a stratified population, and is devoted to continuing its growth.

About Dickerman Prints

Dickerman Prints is a full-service custom photo lab in San Francisco, producing photographic and archival pigment prints to the highest standards. Their Polielettronica Laserlab, a state-of-the-art silver halide photographic printer and processor, is also available for D.I.Y. printing. Customers are free to use one oft four Macintosh workstations, or work online directly from their studios. Dickerman Prints loves to offer guests complimentary organic espresso and teas.

David Johnson: Photographer of the Fillmore

Daniel Johnson was Ansel Adam's first African American student in the mid 20th century in San Francisco at what would be come SFAI. He shot wonderful images of the Fillmore in its heyday.

The Harvey Milk Photo Center opens a retrospective of his work this Sept 6th (1-4pm). Should be a great show to check out:


Exhibit: David Johnson Photography Retrospective
Exhibit Curators: David J Christensen, Director, Harvey Milk Photo Center and Susanna Lucia Lamaina 
Opening Reception: Saturday, September 61–4p.m.
Dates: September  6 – October 19
Locations: Harvey Milk Photo Center, 50 Scott St.
Viewing hours: Tues-Thursday, 4-8 p.m., Sat & Sunday noon–4:30 p.m.

David Johnson, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., was the first African American student of Ansel Adams. In Adams’ school he was advised to photograph his own neighborhood and document the faces and places with which he was most familiar. He subsequently became an important chronicler of black life in San Francisco in the middle part of the 20th century.

After his return to Jacksonville, Florida in 1946 from the US Navy, David Johnson was certain of one thing, and that was that he wanted to become a photographer. What was uncertain was where he would find the opportunity to study photography. He happened to read an article in Popular Photography that Ansel Adams was to become the Director of Photography at the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute). Johnson immediately wrote to Mr. Adams seeking a spot in the first class. He mentioned that he was a Negro. Ansel sent him a telegram saying the class was filled, and that it did not matter that he was a Negro, but his name would be placed on the list in the event someone cancelled .Within a week he got another message indicating there was a place in the class. Johnson arrived in San Francisco in 1946 shortly after his 19th birthday. Minor White met him at the ferry building in San Francisco and they took the streetcar to the Ansel Adams’ house. He stayed there until he could find a place to live in the Fillmore District, the black section of the city,a place that would shape his future.

Burma w/ Monica Denevan

We've added the incredibly beautiful black and white medium format photography of Monica Denevan (LINK). She travels regularly to Burma to capture these stunning images of Fisherman working and living with their families along the tranquil waters.

Here is a small taste below. Be sure to check our gallery section to view more from her and from a few other of our favorite photographers.

7/11 - "Be/Longing": Summer Photography Show (San Francisco)

If you're in San Francisco, be sure to get to this wonderful three person photo show opening on Friday evening, July 11th.

 Darija Jelincic 32 Darija Jelincic 32" x 40"

Fouladi Projects is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by three women photographers. The works in the show vary in content, but all investigate the human issues of isolation, containment and longing. Inherent in our existence is the need to balance the conundrum between being an individual, physically separate, yet also requiring a vital connection to others to thrive.

 Anne Veraldi 24' x 22 Anne Veraldi 24' x 22"

"Be/Longing": Summer Photography Show
Featuring new work by Nina Dietzel, Darija Jelincic and Anne Veraldi
Opening reception: Friday, July 11th, 6 to 8pm

Nina Dietzel's "Paris Series" diptychs juxtapose images which cleverly reveal the universal tension between masculine and feminine archetypes.

Darija Jelincic's works on view are from her "Escapes" series, beautifully capturing vignettes of human culture clustered together against the great expanse of the sea and the sky.

Anne Veraldi's photographs are a selection from her "Outside-In Series", which depict both found and remnant artifacts encapsulated within the iconic mason jar, as a way of preserving wistful memories from the past.


Fouladi Projects
1803 Market Street
San Francisco Ca 94103
415 621 2535

ASMP Printing Workshop

Join us for a comprehensive workshop in collaboration with ASMP Norcal on Fine Art Photography Printing:


THE IMAGE FLOW, 401 Miller St., Mill Valley, CA, 415-388-3569
Visit www.asmpnorcal.org for more information on tickets and presenters.

Session 1
Fine Art Prints

This section of the workshop will go over fine art printing, as it relates to the new and traditional materials and methods: silver, inkjet, digital press, and alternative process prints
What are some important qualities of a finished print? What can a professional printer can do for you?


This section will cover how to choose between different inkjet papers and how they behave differently. What is archivability? There will be a discussion of different inks, acid, environmental exposure factors and paper profiles

Session 2 & 3
Overview of Digital Workflow and Capture

This section will include an overview of topics in your printing workflow: input, processing, output, color calibrated workflows, color profiles and consistency.

The Digital Darkroom

How do you create the perfect Master File? Here, we will go over the basics of Digital Asset management, global versus local adjustments, plugins, and sharpening.

  “Home, #892218″ photograph by Seth Dickerman
“Home, #892218″ photograph by Seth Dickerman

Jason Hanasik’s Portraiture Projects

We first discovered Jason Hanasik’s work through his submissions to our recent exhibition at the lab, “The Americans 2013.”His portraits of youth NJROTC participant Sharrod have a pensive, authentic feel to them, and we were interested in learning more about his process.

Take a look at our interview below to learn more about his project with Sharrod, “I slowly watched him disappear,” and other works in “He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore” and “My father (and other men).”

Kim Sikora: How did you first become connected with Sharrod as a subject? What inspired this project?

Jason Hanasik: During my first semester of graduate school, I started a project that would become my thesis work called “He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore.” By the end of my first semester, I realized that I was working with and on a larger idea about the evolution and devolving of the military body. So, when my father asked me what I wanted to do during my winter break, I told him that I’d love to meet someone who was going through the same NJROTC program that some of the men in my project had also gone through. To my surprise, he said that a coworker of his had a son who was at my alma mater and was just starting NJROTC.

I met Sharrod and his mother Angie a few days later and made the first few images for what is now known as “I slowly watched him disappear.” Sharrod (balcony) is actually the first image I ever made of Sharrod.

KS: What changes have you seen as your project progressed?

JH: When Sharrod and I first started working together he was shy. As we found our groove, I became a big brother of sorts and in between photographs he’d ask me questions that I imagine would normally be reserved for a father figure or a very close confidant.

About midway through the project, seeing the frustration in his mother’s eyes, I ended up teaching him how to drive in the city hall parking lot. And when we were done, I could see that both he and I were tired of the fantasy that the uniform and ROTC afforded. He was tired of playing their game and I had lost him to other curiosities. He’s now a sophomore at a college in Atlanta studying mechanical engineering.

Apart from the relationship progress, as an artist, I realized that I was becoming very interested in the movement of the body across multiple frames and through video. Midway through the project, I made “Sharrod (Turn/Twirl)” and when I look back, I see my move to making still image triptychs in the project as a direct result of figuring out how to capture movement in time via still imagery.

KS: Can you speak a little bit about your photographic relationship with your subjects? We’re interested in learning more about how photographers use different methods or techniques to get the images they want.

JH: I develop a relationship that is birthed out of trust or we eventually arrive at that place. When I was shooting “He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore,” I had the voices of some unfortunate people in my head saying things like, “these are your surrogate boyfriends.”

These people/voices were incorrectly mapping a sexuality onto these men in pretty one dimensional ways. So, when my friend Steven (one of the main protagonists of that project), asked me what I was doing with the images, I had this moment of panic because I thought he had heard something or was starting to go down that same path. I breathed and said what I thought I was doing and in the end, he trusted me even more. So much so, that the next morning he said, “I have some images you might want to see.” The images and video clips he showed from his time in Iraq were the final piece of the puzzle for that project and I doubt I would have ever found/been able to make images that did the same kind of work. I also don’t think Steven would have ever lied down in his uniform in a bed of flowers had that trust not already been established.

KS: What is the future of this body of work?

JH: “I slowly watched him disappear” is slated to be published this fall by the newly formed imprint, Kris Graves Projects. Kris Graves is a colleague of mine from undergrad who opened a gallery in Brooklyn and has now turned his boundless energy towards the world of publishing. But really, this body of work is a part of a larger project that is still untitled and still unfinished.

In the larger project, the viewer will be invited to focus both on the individual narratives and stories as well as look at the whole series as a way of thinking about performance of the (male) military body. We’ll see the fantasy of it, the acculturation into it, and finally some form of the destruction of that body.

KS: Do you have any new projects you’d like to tell us about?

JH: I have a few new projects which I’m slowly working on. The first is called “This is the Hanasik home” which is an extension of an installation I showed a year ago at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery. This project looks at the idea of the family home, the expectations therein, and how we imbue a place, much like we do a photograph, with meaning that isn’t necessarily present for anyone but the family or individual viewer.

I am also working on a publication that will better represent my thesis work called “He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore” and a novella titled “My father (and other men).”

KS: We all struggle at times, balancing our personal work and professional lives. How have you made time to photograph and make work?

JH: Well, I don’t think we all struggle. Fortunately for some, there are trust funds or lucky investments or hard earned savings accounts which afford the time to just make. Sadly, I’m not in that position so, for me, it’s about priorities.

Last year was a year where two major things happened in my life. The first was a life long dream was attained when I exhibited “Sharrod (Turn/Twirl)” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. I was also in talks twice to move back to the East Coast and take a fairly well compensated but highly demanding position with two different companies. I walked away from all of the employment offers when I realized that it would be a long time before I would make “my” work again. When I was at the Hockney exhibit at the De Young a few months ago, a woman was amazed at how many drawings he had made over the course of a year. I thought to myself, this is his job and a major part of his life.

I think the narrative for every artist is different but for me, leading an engaged, mindful, generous and “creative” life is my number one priority. When I’m not actively making something, I’m thinking about the world of images and ways to play with them so I kind of feel like I am making work all the time. Given that disposition, I don’t feel so bad and I don’t feel like I am wasting my time when I walk into my 9-5 Monday through Friday. In fact, I kind of look forward to it.