Life to LensMay 25, 2018 08:35AM ● By J. Chambless
A self-portrait of John Dixon taken during the first day of photography class that he teaches as part of the recreational therapy program at the Perry Point VA.
If you see a beautiful landscape photograph that John Dixon has taken, there’s a good chance that he hiked or biked his way to the site, stopping along the way whenever his highly trained photographer’s eye landed on something that was captivating.
Maybe documenting life one stunning image at a time is Dixon’s way of slowing down, just for a minute, before he resumes his fast-paced life.
Even by modern-day-renaissance-man standards, Dixon is an extremely busy man.
Some people might know Dixon because he serves on the board of the Cecil County Arts Council. Others might recognize him because he’s the gentleman often seen wearing a suit while riding a really nice bike through the streets of Elkton.
Others know him from his work. Dixon has been a photographer for about 25 years. His Life to Lens Photography features the work of a team of talented photographers. At various times, Dixon has also worked in a bike shop, served as a construction superintendent, and he’s more than fair at carpentry. He’s also an IT guy, and few information technology specialists can match his ability to fill a website with interesting images. Dixon builds and maintains the website for CASA of Cecil County and for the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. So the only time that Dixon stops, seemingly, is when he is photographing an image―documenting a moment in time that caught his eye.
“I wear a lot of different hats,” Dixon said of all his activities.
Everything that he does, he does following a simple mantra that he learned growing up: “Anything worth doing,” he said, “is worth doing well.”
Like any good artist, there’s no separating the art from the person. Dixon’s photography is intertwined with his life―it is enhanced by his variety of activities not hindered by them. And just as Dixon is multi-talented as a person, he has many different skills and interests as a photographer. He might shoot portraits during the week, and then photograph a wedding on the weekend. He loves being outside in nature, so he might do landscape work one day, and then shoot a birthday party the next. He’s always shooting sports, whether it’s soccer games and track & field events at Cecil County schools for a local newspaper or triathlons throughout the region.
“Most photographers have a niche,” Dixon explained. “They are good at portraits. They are good at landscapes. Or they photograph weddings. Or they photograph sports.” Proof that Dixon is skilled at photographing all of them can be found on the website, lifetolens.com.
Dixon has always been artistic. He grew up in Cecil County always doing sketches, drawing, or painting. He liked taking pictures from a young age, too, but he didn’t start focusing on photography as a way to document the world around him until he realized that the black community, as a whole, was under-represented in photographs. One of his initial goals in learning photography was to change that.
Dixon photographs a wide variety of subjects, and the pictures will often intersect with another part of his life. His adventures on a bike, for example, will frequently take him to new, interesting places. Just as he was always an artist, Dixon has always been riding bikes. His mother is a teacher, and Dixon recalls that sometimes she would be driving home from work and would see him riding his bike in the opposite direction, heading off in search of worlds to explore. His enthusiasm for riding only increased as he got older, and he moved on to ride BMX bikes and mountain bikes. It’s nothing for him to take a 20-mile bike ride.
As a cycling enthusiast, he eventually ended up working at the Wooden Wheels bike shop in Newark, Del. It was another way for him to spend a few hours of the day involved in a pursuit that he is passionate about.
“I’ve always been a tech guy,” he said. “Most guys who work in bike shops are tech guys.”
He is skilled at carpentry, and even put the floors down in the bike shop.
His love of cycling also led him to travel extensively to photograph triathlons. Sometimes, he was asked to show up hours before the race started to help set up the course for the race because of his experience as a cyclist. All of his interests eventually are reflected in his work as a photographer.
A few years ago, Dixon collected some of his images in a hardcover book. In describing the book, Dixon wrote: “I believe every photo either has or portrays a personality, mood, or an emotion to be discovered. The image should stir some emotion through detail, complexity, simplicity, or possibly desire. Every individual will view my work and react to it differently. Whatever viewing brings about, just be willing to take the time to look.”
In his fast-paced life, stopping to take a photograph is a way for Dixon himself to stop and take the time to look at the world around him.
Dixon’s stunning photographs have earned numerous awards and honors. He was the recipient of the Merita McMillian Best In Nature Award. He won first place in the Cecil County Arts Council Focus on Cecil County photography contest. His images have been displayed in the new County Administration Building, and his work has been showcased at the Oxford Arts Alliance. When the Cecil County Arts Council partnered with the Cecil County Public Library to set up a gallery of artwork in the Elkton library, Dixon’s work was the first to be exhibited. His work has been featured in many different places throughout Cecil County, where he is very involved in the community.
His involvement with the Cecil County Arts Council dates back about ten years. He’s served on the Arts Council board for about four years, and has served as the board treasurer for two years.
Dixon loves his work with the Cecil County Arts Council because part of the mission is supporting the work of local artists. Each month, there’s a new art show featured in the gallery. Each of the shows has a different theme, and Dixon is enthusiastic about all of them. He particularly enjoys when the work of students from Cecil County’s public schools is exhibited.
“When we have these shows, the work of the students will amaze you,” he said. “The students’ work is incredible.”
For more information about John Dixon's photography, visit his website at www.lifetolens.com. The Cecil County Arts Council is located at 135 East Main Street in Elkton.
To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email [email protected]