`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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.