ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

Questions with a Pro: David Burnett

Today’s Questions with a Pro features the incomparable David Burnett.

A brilliant artist and deeply insightful photojournalist, over the past 40 years David’s work has been featured in most of the major photographic and general interest magazines in the U.S. and Europe including LIFE, Time, and National Geographic. No wonder American Photo magazine named him one of the 100 most important people in photography!

Visit to see more of his exquisite work.

We Asked: Where do you go outside of photography to look for inspiration and to recharge creatively?

David Says: We live in a time of sensory overload, but I think you can’t help but notice what’s doing in cinema, which tends to combine many elements of both technology and photography. While I’m no real student of the Flemish painters of the 16th and 17th century, I think you would be hard pressed to find more wonderful expressions of lighting, and how light interacts with faces.

We Asked: What was a recent image you saw (by any photographer) that delighted or surpassed you and why?

David Says: As annoying or challenging as the internet can be, it also brings unforeseen joys from time to time. I discovered on one of those “amazing photos you have to see” sites, the work of Australian photographer Ray Collins ( and what I love about his work is that he swims in the same oceans we do, but comes away with pictures which are just stunning. I mean, who would have thought that water could take so many colors, shapes, and personalities. I love seeing work which surprises me, as it constantly reminds me that I have my own barriers to leap beyond, and that the only way to do it is… to DO it. gets you to one shot…but the series is fantastic.

We Asked: If you could go back and change one mistake you made in the early days of your business, what would it be?

David Says: I wish I’d been more attentive to the social side of business. As we’re fond of saying in today’s parlance, “no one likes doing business with a dick.” At some point in your work, you realize that the combination of creativity, friendship, and collaborating with talented people are all things which can make your own work better.

If this post was of interest to you, then check out some of the other posts in the Questions with a Pro and Questions with an Educator series.


Join the discussion One Comment

  • says:

    The greatest lesson I ever learned, and it was from David, WORK HARD. The harder you work, as the old saying goes, the luckier you get. David is certainly the hardest working photographer I know and he is truly great.

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