Tags: Photography,  Alumni,  Graduate Students,  Faculty

From Battlefield to Darkroom

Daryn LaBier came to Academy of Art University after serving as a reconnaissance scout in the U.S. Army, where he operated video surveillance equipment. He began to use the camera to document military life, on and off the battlefield.
“I want to create images that tell
a story people can get lost in.”
“A scout has to do three things: shoot, move, and communicate. I feel this is also appropriate as a photographer,” he says. After graduating, he started his own business specializing in photography and photo illustration. His work is imaginative, unforgettable and often features exotic, otherworldly backgrounds. “I want to create images that tell a story people can get lost in,” says LaBier. He has also found a niche in commissioned work for the tactical community: magazines and companies that create apparel for hunters, extreme campers and the military. “Being a veteran gives me a foot in the door.” LaBier urges other vets to explore their artistic side. “Take all the things that made you a soldier, all the skills to be mission-oriented. You can apply those toward a degree in the arts,” he advises.
“I was blown away [by the Academy]. I had
never seen work like this or this level of artistry
and technical skill...before.”
Before arriving at the Academy, LaBier moved to South Korea to teach English and focus on his photography. He returned four years later with a portfolio and began researching MFA photography programs. During a visit to San Francisco, LaBier attended the Academy's annual Spring Show. "I was blown away. I had never seen work like this or this level of artistry and technical skill...before," he recalls.

Icons of Photography Program

Senior students who have demonstrated exceptional aptitude have the possibility to work directly with top photographers in the industry in the Icons of Photography Program. This is a special opportunity and unique to Academy of Art University Photography students.

Daryn won the opportunity in 2010 and learned essential lessons during his directed study with Chris Clor, an award-winning photographer and illustrator based out of London. “Chris helped me refine my concepts and take my Photoshopping skills to the next level, learning how to use tools to create the visions floating in my head. I worked with him remotely while traveling. Sensory overload is challenging while traveling—Chris helped me to focus on the now and not be overwhelmed by stimuli. I learned to trust myself to capture and create the images I wanted and to distinguish what each scene and individual have to offer.”

LaBier’s Mentor

“I had spent 40+ hours on my most complex, composited image to date with shots of the Great Wall of China and San Francisco [China Dreamin’—see above]. After seeing this image, Jim Wood, executive director of the School of Photography, called a meeting with me. He shared his own journey with photography, and we discussed my inspirations. Jim encouraged me to reach out to Chris Clor, award-winning photographer and illustrator based out of London, and other photographers in the Bay Area to network and for potential collaborations. If it hadn’t been for Jim Wood calling me into his office, my photography might not be where it is today. Jim has supported me and introduced me to so many key people. To this day, we meet for updates and shop talk. It’s a mentor-type relationship—it’s been really fantastic.”

James Wood

Executive Director

School of Photography

“I quickly recognized a really good story teller in Daryn. He created very interesting characters and situations, sometimes complicated and a bit bizarre like within an action or dramatic movie still. After graduating he continued his style of photo illustration for various sections of the U.S. Army, a high-end lamp company, and also more shooting of beautiful editorial portraiture jobs. He is so fantastic at what he does, I hired him to teach Photo Illustration at the Academy. He is a great teacher to boot.”
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