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Fearless photographer

When David Kuchta's photography clients tell him that a job might prove difficult, he does not worry. The Pittsburgh native, who now has made the Duluth area his home, has had plenty of past experience to draw confidence from, including a 15-year...

When David Kuchta's photography clients tell him that a job might prove difficult, he does not worry. The Pittsburgh native, who now has made the Duluth area his home, has had plenty of past experience to draw confidence from, including a 15-year military career in which he shot under some harrowing conditions as a member of the Army Special Forces.
For instance, there was the time he was shooting from below while a Chinook helicopter was sling-loading equipment. A 2-1/2 ton truck got loose and "came to earth rather quickly."
Kuchta shot almost the entire descent.
His experience outside the military doesn't hurt either, like the time he was taking a shot while a tree limb broke from underneath him.
"The sky's the limit, literally," Kuchta said he tells his clients.
Kuchta, who idolizes Ansel Adams and does much of his work in black and white, owns and operates Otter Creek Photography in Moose Lake and is working to make a name for himself as an artistic photographer. His photographs have won awards from the Minnesota Professional Photographers Association, and some have been chosen to tour the Upper Midwest.
His work has been exhibited at the Depot through the Duluth Art Institute and is on sale at the Depot's gift shop, as well as Decker's Art Gallery. His work recently went on display at Jitter's, as well.
Kuchta sees his work as artistic photography -- in fact, he sees photography as an art form that's been underrated, and he even travels to area schools to evangelize.
"I love it, because out of a group of like 25 kids I'll generally get three or four that show a genuine interest," he said during an interview last week.
Often it is a first introduction for students to photography as an art form, he said. "So that's really exciting for me, to see those lights come on."
He also has very strong feelings about his work.
Much of Kuchta's photography reflects his love for the natural landscape of the Northland, which he says is one of the primary reasons he settled here. Glancing through his photographs, one will see pictures of rivers, rocks, trees and landscapes, often focusing on a small detail, like a small pine sapling growing out of the snow right next to a larger tree.
"I love detail; I really crave detail," he said.
Kuchta also does interesting compositions, of bare feet on a log or of a lock hanging from a chain. But some of Kuchta's work also covers familiar landmarks -- one can expect to see photos of the Lift Bridge and the Lakewalk.
"I tend to have a real personal way of photographing a subject or an object," he said.
He said that while he's "actually quite a technical photographer," when he's picking a subject, technical considerations and commercial thoughts don't enter in much. "I just have to love what I see," he said.
In his black and white work, Kuchta says he pays particular attention to the play of light and shadow, the way light falls at a given moment, more than color, and he says he has developed a knack for seeing how a shot will look in black and white.
He says he also makes unique use of depth of field, making unusual choices in what to leave in focus. Another trademark of his style is sunspots, which he sometimes puts in his work intentionally.
While Kuchta, who shoots in medium format and in 35 mm, does shoot in color "if it's necessary," he is a passionate traditionalist when it comes to his equipment. He doesn't shoot digital photographs or use computer enhancements, preferring to stay with film in his work.
"I think I'm building on my uniqueness by staying with tradition," he said. It's also one of the reasons he appreciates black and white photography, and art form with a process that's essentially the same as it's been for decades.
But he has big dreams. Kuchta hopes to advance in his career to the point where his style becomes known and recognized. He'd also like to travel more of the country shooting pictures and even possibly put out a coffee table book.
"I know other photographic artists are doing it, and I just think that there's never enough -- it can't be too much," he said.
And he wants to keep building his skills as well.
"I think that I have much potential, and I'm looking for my niche out there with a camera," he said.

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