Dan Winters talks to us about shooting “Last Launch”

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”

Neil Armstrong

Dan Winters grew up in the golden-age of space travel, watching the live launch of Apollo 11 with his family on their home television set and carefully following the mission unfold on TV, hanging on every detail as reported by Walter Cronkrite. This experience left an indelible impression not only on Dan Winters, but on the nation’s collective memory as a whole.

Winters was one of only a handful of photographers to whom NASA gave close-range access to photograph the last launches of the space shuttles Discovery (February 24, 2022), Atlantis (May 17,2022), and Endeavour (May 11, 2022). Winters positioned several automatically controlled cameras, bolted into place for stability, at strategic points around the launch pads, some as close as 700 feet. The camera lenses are taped into place so they cannot be shaken out of focus by the blast. Tripped by an electronic trigger that reacted to the shuttles’ vibrations, cameras began shooting every five seconds after the ignition occurred. Dan Winters’ elaborate setup enabled him to record the explosive launches and the billowing smoke and ethereal clouds that follow, capturing transcendent images that serve as the last documentation of these shuttles as they were sent hurtling into space.

With precision and admiration, Winters’ photographs of the Discovery shuttle interiors, complex instrumentation, vehicle assembly facilities, and mission control provide the viewer with a visual tour of the space program as a marvel of technology and human ingenuity.

platformPHOTO: Hi Dan, are you self-taught or photography school taught?
Dan Winters: I started as a newspaper photographer in 1985. I took a few classes in junior college but am self taught for the most part. I had an instructor in junior college  that had a profound effect on me. He is a mentor to this day.

platformPHOTO: Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to start photography?
Dan Winters: My greatest influence has been John Gray who was my junior college instructor. His influence has had more to do with the artistic process and the thought. He is a profoundly gifted educator. He has had several successful former students. Other major influences would come from early photography. Stieglitz, Strand, Callahan, Metzker, Frank and countless others who have paved the way.

platformPHOTO: Do you remember what was your first job?
Dan Winters: My first magazine assignment was from Jeff Christensen at Metropolis Magazine. I photographed a chair. It was a huge deal to me. Prior to that I had completed hundreds of assignments at the newspaper. Working at the paper was the best job that I ever had.

platformPHOTO: You were one of only few photographers to be given close access by the NASA to photograph the last launches of the spaces shuttles Discovery. How did it feel?
Dan Winters: I was very grateful to get pad access to the final launches. It was due to some lobbying but also had to do with the magazine placement that I had secured. NASA is in dark times and any worldwide magazine coverage is of help to them.

platformPHOTO: Can you share with us the mental process that happened from the moment you were confirmed close access to shoot the last launches of the spaces shuttles Discovery?
Dan Winters: The project went on for some time. It was physically challenging in that the working conditions are quite inhospitable at the cape. Mosquitos and intense heat, not to mention the technical aspects make things very challenging. The project took considerably longer than a normal assignment: over a year, so yes I would say the project was my most challenging to date.

platformPHOTO: Are you shooting for personal projects aside from your commissioned work?
Dan Winters: I shoot very frequently. I always am building on my archive. I have been writing a book for the last year or so. It is difficult to work on side projects as I am usually shooting assignment work. The book has taken me much longer than it would have had I been able to devote all of my time to it. It has taken as long as it needed to I guess.

platformPHOTO: Dan, thank you very much for your time, we have one last question for you. If we sent you to a desert island and allowed you to take one image by another photographer, what would this image be?
Dan Winters: Winter 5th avenue, Alfred Stieglitz, 1892. Hands down.

Fahey/ Klein Gallery is pleased to present “Last Launch”, this stunning photographic tribute to America’s space shuttle program and the unquenchable American spirit of exploration:

Venue: Fahey/ Klein Gallery, 148 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Open: 11th July - 31st August 2013
Reception for the Artist: Thursday 11th July , 7 - 9 PM

For more information about the exhibition, please visit: www.faheykleingallery.com

Book: “Last Launch”

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press (20 Dec 2021)
  • Language: English
  • Price: £35
  • ISBN-10: 029273963X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292739635
  • Product Dimensions: 25.7 x 2.3 x 31.2 cm

To view more of Dan Winter‘s work please visit: http://danwintersphoto.com/

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