Meet the Instructors: Davis Freeman, Art and Business of Photography

[Meet the Instructors is a series intended to introduce you to one of the greatest resources the University of Washington Tacoma Professional Development Center has to offer: its diverse team of veteran, industry-tested professionals. The Center’s professional development programs are designed to be rewarding, challenging and cutting-edge. Our instructors play no small part in that, ensuring students are exposed to the most current industry trends while remaining well-versed in the tried-and-true best practices of their professions. We’re excited to share our instructors with you, and their stories are a great place to start.]

Davis Freeman has photographed a wide variety of subjects, from the Dalai Llama and the first brain surgery broadcast around the world to his barber and the covers of corporate annual reports. To say that he is an experienced photographer is truly an understatement.

This year, he will be teaching others how to pursue their own photographic dreams. Freeman joins the team at the UW Tacoma Professional Development Center as an instructor in a brand-new program, Art and Business of Photography.

This non-credit certificate program is designed for photographers who are interested in going into business, as well as working photographers looking to revamp their businesses or head in another direction in the world of photography. In short, and as named, the program will look at the world of professional photography from the perspectives of both art and business.

Freeman’s first official gig was as his high school’s yearbook photographer. Something about seeing a picture emerge in the darkroom, he said, got him hooked. Freeman took a hiatus from photography in college, getting a degree in social sciences. He discovered it again when he was drafted to serve during the Vietnam War. His army post had a darkroom, and Freeman spent his free time there learning the art of making negatives come to life.

After his military service and a second degree in psychology, he took his passion for people to the business world.  Freeman received his third degree, cum laude, from an esteemed program in biomedical photography and spent his next years photographing medical procedures in hospitals. Next, the University of Washington asked him to become the head of its staff photography department, a position he held for many years.  Eventually, he felt a call to begin his own business. Since then, Freeman’s career has included all types of corporate, retail and fine art photography.

“I’m a person who likes diversity,” he said. “That’s why I went from the university, which is by most standards a job for life, on to the corporate world to the family portrait world, from there to books and teaching.”

Through all of it, Freeman said his favorite job is “the next one.”

“There’s so much to photograph,” he said.  “It gives me an entry to life.”

Looking back, today Freeman thinks the trait that enabled him to have such a long and successful career was his interest in people and dedication to his work, no matter what it was.

“To be successful creatively, you need a love affair,” he said. “To be successful financially, you need to understand business. Two very different skillsets, but they’re both very important.”

Freeman, who has succeeded in both realms, is excited to impart the lessons he has learned in this new program.

“I’ve designed this program to be interactive, to get people involved much earlier on in using the techniques that we’ll talk about for business or photography,” he said.

“We’ll do a lot of work on marketing and sales,” he said. “What this is going to offer students is an entrée to what they’ll need to do to start a business. This will be a stepping-stone to a career. If you’re extremely dedicated, you can take this into a career, take it into the real world.”

Art and Business of Photography is scheduled to start Sept. 28. Registration is open to the public, with no application required. For more information, visit the program’s webpage here.

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