`I want to inspire people to travel," says photographer David Simchock

in a phone interview from the Bay Area in California, where he just

finished teaching at a summer camp for kids near Redwood City. "I want

people who see my work to want to leave home and see some of these

places. The world would be a different place if more Americans

traveled."

Fifty of Simchock’s photographs from his globe-trotting travels are

part of a group show at the Straube Center in Pennington opening with

a reception on Saturday, September 9.

Simchock’s photographs tend toward elegant, close-cropped, simple

compositions. Often the images seem almost too good to be true due to

the astounding brilliance of the colors. Viewers may be surprised to

learn that Simchock has only been photographing professionally since

early 2003.

He grew up in Ewing, where his father, Frederick, worked for AT&T,

and his mother, Carole, was a homemaker. After graduating with a

bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from Rutgers in 1986 he

worked for Con Edison in New York for about eight years. During this

time he pursued a masters degree in technology management at the

Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, conferred in 1994. He

then accepted an offer with a company in England and worked there for

five and a half years.

But Simchock found himself growing tired of the corporate world and

decided to take a break and travel for three years. He told the Ewing

Observer in January, 2004, "Once I got through the initial change in

my life, of leaving my comfort zone, moving to a foreign country –

that all made going off for three years easier. Also, some of the

people I’d met in England, particularly the Australians, the Kiwis,

and the South Africans I met, they have a different mindset. They

traveled constantly, all over the world, and I thought, maybe they

have it right."

His travels led him to five continents over those three years. In

early 2003, when he returned, he founded his freelance photography

business, Vagabond Vistas Photography. In his artist’s statement,

Simchock says: "My art is an extension of my insatiable wanderlust.

Through my work I am sharing my passion on a creative and, ultimately

experiential level."

Once a hobby, Simchock’s photography soon became his career, landing

him several awards and an impressive front page spot in the travel

section of the New York Times with his photograph of the stone heads

on Easter Island (see photo above).

The story of how Simchock got the New York Times gig is illustrative

of his targeted marketing and publicity efforts, which he says stem

from the latter part of his corporate career in business development.

"My goal is to be published," Simchock says. "I want to work for the

likes of National Geographic, but realistically speaking, I started

out with no resume in the business, just my travel images. The plan

was always to build up the resume before I started marketing to the

big players in the industry." But because Simchock had so many stock

images from his travels he put together "a polished press kit," which

he sent to the New York Times and Washington Post’s travel editors,

among other publications.

"Eventually the (New York Times) travel photo editor called me, a

couple of months later. Just before that the Washington Post travel

photo editor called me. They were doing a special travel section,

World Fare, about foods around the world, and I had a neat market

photo of a woman in a boat with lemongrass around her. The New York

Times was doing a story on unusual places that included Easter Island.

I had four images in my press kit, and they asked if I had anything

else. I put together a link to Easter Island photos on my website and

sent them the link but I didn’t hear anything.

"Fate was in my favor because one day I planned a trip to New York and

took in a CD of high-resolution Easter Island images, with the intent

of dropping it off at the Times. I was somewhere on Broadway and the

photo editor called. Then there I was in the offices of the New York

Times."

In his travels, Simchock became particularly fond of South America. "I

spend a lot of time in South America. I am very interested in the

culture and music, and I’m learning Spanish. It adds another dimension

to traveling when you speak the language. I’m not fluent, but far past

basic. I’m conversational on many topics."

Stylistically, Simchock is particularly is fond of candid portraiture.

On his website, vagabondvistas.com, he groups his images into three

categories: people, places and things. "I like my `people’ work the

most, especially the kids from Asia and South America," he says.

Though he started shooting with film, he has switched to fully

digital. "I shoot digitally but traditionally." He does very little,

if any, retouching on the computer. "I shoot in a photojournalistic

style – what I see is what I want to print."

While Simchock has a good eye and knows how to compose a good

photograph in the view finder, he says, "It’s not until you see (the

image) on the computer that you know whether it is just a good shot or

whether it is going to be exceptional. You can have a great

composition, but if the eyes are not in focus, then it’s a worthless

shot."

Take, for example "La Nina," a photograph of a young Peruvian girl

(see above). The image is framed tightly around the head of the girl,

clad in a light-blue shirt and red headscarf. Her head is cocked,

leaning against a wooden pole she holds in her right hand, her left

hand beneath her chin. Her poise is almost bashful but the look in her

dark eyes is captivating. It’s an instance that would have been lost,

had her eyes been caught in the soft blur of improper focal length

that allows her right hand to fall from attention in such a close-up,

close-cropped photo.

The ultimate simplicity and stark nature of most of Simchock’s

photographs could possibly be attributed to his personal reflections

on his travels. Of his time spent in third world countries, he says,

"The happiest people I’ve come across are the people who have the

fewest material possessions. It makes me realize what is most

important – people. My life has become more and more simple since I

left the corporate world."

In addition to his travels, Simchock has other projects on his place.

Another series, which can be viewed on Simchock’s web site, is titled

"Hogs, Rods `n’ Bods," centered around the motorcycle, hot rod, and

tattoo culture here in the United States. He teaches photography as

well, both groups and individuals. After teaching at the summer camp

in northern California earlier this month, Simchock went to Los

Angeles to meet with South American Journeys, a travel company he

connected with at the travel expo at Jacob Javits in New York in

February. He will be teaching photography workshops for groups

traveling to Peru in April and Chile and Patagonia in October of next

year. Simchock is also spending time on his writing, which began as

travel journals.

Due to his West coast trip this summer, Simchock hung his Straube

Center show early and is happy to report that "a tenant in the

building took an interest in my work and has already bought eight of

the 50 pieces."

Photography by David Simchock, Saturday, September 9, 4 to 6 p.m.,

Straube Center, 100 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington. Opening

reception (conference room, Building 108) for exhibit of local,

national, and international artists featuring works of Roberta

Desantis, Susan Ewart, Bob Iola, Gunther Johne, Harry I. Naar, David

Simchock, Charlotte Sommer-Landgraf, and Tina Tontagna-Tate. Through

Tuesday, October 10. 609-737-1308.

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