Forty years of capturing the perfect shot

By Ilias Bakalla

Having spent more than 40 years behind the lens its was Dale Wright's turn to be in front of it.

The Minyip-born, Shepparton-raised photographer recently achieved life membership status with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography.

He is one of only a handful of photographers in the country to receive the accolade.

In the front room of his converted-cottage photography studio he speaks about the moment he found out about the recognition.

“I opened the letter at the kitchen table here,” he says.

“I read it and I didn't register what it said, I walked away and came back to read it a second time, then it sunk in.

“It's incredible news, the AIPP is a fantastic institution to be involved in.”

Dale started as a photographer when he was 17 and established his own photography business, Dale Wright Portrait Maker, in 1975.

Dale in the front room of his converted-cottage photography studio.

He reflects on how the industry has changed during his career.

“I started when black-and-white was the norm, there was no such thing as colour,” he said.

“Before digital you needed all the ingredients set up perfectly for one or two shots, max.

“I was trained to be on edge to take that very perfect one shot.”

Learning in this environment made Dale disciplined in his craft and somewhat of a purist.

Nowadays he still only takes one or two perfect shots rather than hundreds.

A family on horse back.

He labels Photoshopping a "cop-out".

“I encourage all young photographers to join the AIPP to learn the standard to achieve their goals,” Dale said.

Dale is a community-minded individual and during the course of his photography career has played a role in creating and capturing the special moments in the lives of many.

“I've photographed over 3000 weddings,” he said.

“Years ago I used to play in a band, and I'd photograph the ceremony, run home and get changed to play music at the reception.”

Leaving home.

But the industry has been hit hard by the digital revolution.

“We used to have a staff of six or seven, now it is me and my son,” he said.

“Digital knocked out all the jobs with printing; we used to have people printing negatives and masking negatives."

In his free time Dale runs a mentoring group called Talking Straight.

Rainy wedding.

It helps men deal with their mental health issues and unexpected hardships in life.

Dale said he started it after work-related stress triggered a battle with depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

“Twenty-three years ago I fell out of my tree,” he said.

“It was the worst six months of my life but the best six months because I learnt a lot about myself.

“After I came through, I thought I should do something about it — so I started the group.

“Over 200 men have gone through the program and they teach me things as well.

Award winning photo 'Father and Son'.

“Even at my age I'm still learning and growing and appreciating all the beautiful things that are in my life,” Dale said.

“I live and breathe this community.”