WELD Artist of the Week: Doug Klembara
Career: Photographer | Filmmaker
Mantra: Work: Never stop discovering; Life: John 10:10
Interview by: Kristin Read
Did you major in “camera always in my hands,” also known as photography?
I technically created my own degree, which ended up having nothing to do with photography (i.e. business, a side of religion, and a minor in creativity)—Definitely not a common path, but one that played off a lot of my strengths. And in the end, provided a lot of different opportunities for me, specifically in photography.
Ok, so when did it all start? Were you a camera child prodigy?
I actually received (and started using) my first film camera in the sixth grade. It was given to me as a gift from my dad to take on a family fishing trip to Canada. I remember shooting as much as possible. I toyed with this passion on and off until my freshman year in college. One day during class, I was flipping through the school’s newspaper and decided that I should call the editor and offer to photograph for the paper. Sure enough, they said yes. After a semester of working with them, I was asked to be the newspapers’ Editor of Photography. And the next year, I was offered the same position for A&M’s yearbook. It was a huge area of growth for me at that point in my life.
Canadian Sunset, captured on film as a sixth grader.
Would you consider yourself a foodie? Is that what lead to you photographing good eats?
I definitely love food, but I don’t think I’m a foodie—yet. It started when I was in Indianapolis with my grandparents and photographed a lot of their older recipes and sending them to a lot of different people. Doing so led to a job with a TV show called The Daytripper that hired me to do a promo for the 12 best BBQ joints in the state of Texas. I’ve learned that food says so much about different people and cultures, and travelling to do humanitarian photography work in Uganda is what opened my eyes to its cultural meaning. Immediately after my feet set touched Ugandan soil, being the first or second American the tribe had ever seen, they killed a cow and prepared a feast . . . There’s a lot about food that signifies the importance of community. It transcends cultural boundaries and I love that.
What do you love most about working with a creative community?
As a recent college grad, I knew I wanted to pursue photography and film, but wasn’t sure in what aspect. But thanks to A&M connection, Paul Golangco, I found the creative community at WELD. When I’ve doubted myself or my work, I’ve been inspired and encouraged by the creatives around me. And at times motivation can be hard to come by as a freelancer, so I’m very grateful for a community that openly shares their skillsets, focused on constantly sharpening each other.
As someone who never had a desire to go to Africa, tell me how you wound up in Uganda. How did making that trip across the pond affect you?
I never set out to go to Africa. But I’m actually involved in a church plant (Eternity Matters Most)where I was informed of a water project in Uganda and the investment being made in a group pastors there, befriending and empowering them. I was later asked to visit and photograph the project. At first I wrote it off, but I couldn’t being asked. Many sleepless and anxious nights later, I changed my mind. Everything about the trip reshaped me. I remember everyone’s welcoming spirit. Everyone hugged. Even the taxi driver hugged me. I was taken back by their joy. These people were materially poor, but spiritually rich. I quickly learned that the joy we find in “stuff” pales in comparison to the joy that can be found living in community.
On that note, it’s hard to be in the same room with you without noticing the huge smile on your face and the sincerity behind it. What brings you joy?
A lot of my joy comes from an understanding of Christ and the sacrifice He made for me so that I can have life . . . and have it to the fullest. Life doesn’t suck. I completely understand that life is hard, and being a believer doesn’t make it perfect, but attitude dictates a lot. I am just so thankful for my life and His working through me.
Talk to me about shooting with a Polaroid camera. Do you think it’s making a comeback? Do you plan on incorporating it into projects?
I recently took a trip to Sundance with a couple of WELDers and my newly acquired Polaroid camera, which brought back so many memories of using my first film camera in the sixth grade—considering and calculating each shot before it was captured. And in an age where everything is rapid fire, I really enjoy working with a medium that requires you slow down, think, and enjoy the shot. On the way to Sundance, we actually ran into people on assignment for a client that wanted nothing but Polaroid’s. Now it’s a niche art, but who knows what the future holds for film. I’ll be anxiously awaiting its comeback.
What does the future hold for Doug? Where are you headed?
I’m currently filming a new series called FoodFinder Texas for PBS this summer. We’ll be examining and documenting the production of food from a holistic approach—how it gets from the field to the table. (We’ve already documented the Craft Beer process in Texas visiting various Austin brewers as well as Houston’s St. Arnold’s.) And while I want to continue developing as a photographer and filmmaker, I’ll always be open to exploring new mediums—Learning, discovering, and enjoying the world around me for as long as I’m here . . . And who wouldn’t enjoy a day of filming with a fresh brew in hand?