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All Eyes: 10 questions with … Times staff photographer Douglas R. Clifford

Douglas R. Clifford (Photo by Raden Thomas)

Douglas R. Clifford (Photo by Raden Thomas)

'Ten questions' is an occasional feature in which Tampa Bay Times photographers share some of their thoughts about photography and photojournalism, as well as some of their favorite images.

Today we are featuring Douglas R. Clifford, a staff photographer who works out of our Clearwater bureau. Clifford has been with the Times since 1998.

So … why photography?

I have always studied pictures. I learned early about their power as a voice and a witness. Pictures can ultimately bring change, foster sympathy, and illuminate deep awareness and emotion. Pictures can be time capsules and time machines. At the end of a day of making pictures I have learned a little about a lot of things through the use of a wonderful tool: the camera.

When did your love of photography begin?

I discovered my parents' subscription to National Geographic magazine when I was a boy. Before I could read I remember studying pictures. At the University of Florida I was proficient in mathematics and science but I had no great passion or discipline. I had met and seen the work of several photojournalists at the university and I wanted what they had. I wanted an opportunity to explore something creative that also had social impact.

What do you like best about being a photojournalist?

Pictures give us a license to be curious. I found I can be creative while being grounded by my responsibility to the subject. It's a privilege that affords me opportunities to educate myself, to improve my abilities, to cultivate a strong sense of purpose in my life. When I make compelling storytelling pictures, especially ones that thrill, inspire or provide an escape from reality, I know I am fulfilling curiosities.

What's the toughest part about being a photojournalist?

It isn't always enough to tell someone who I represent, or why I think a story is important. If I am honest and I am accepted to witness a scene, it is likely the pictures I make will be honest. This can be a tough agreement with most of the negotiations happening nonverbally.

What kind of images would you say you specialize in, if any?

I can usually get to the heart of the story when I am in the moment, getting close, and committed to an objective truth. Detachment enables honest pictures to emerge on their own.

What's the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on an assignment?

I was sent to cover Hurricane Isabel, the costliest, deadliest, and strongest hurricane in the 2003 Atlantic hurricane season. As Isabel approached the North Carolina coast I was sent to Hatteras Island, N.C., to document what happened. I had misjudged my commute through the Outer Banks to the landfall point. Large waves overtook and swamped my vehicle, which I abandoned. I was forced to wade through the storm and took refuge on a stilt home. I eventually found a way to the island and barely made deadline using a satellite transmitter.

Who are your favorite photographers?

William Albert Allard, Peter and David Turnley, Alex Webb, Tomasz Tomaszewski, John Stanmeyer, James Stanfield, Martin Schoeller, Reza, Flip Nicklin, Steve McCurry, David Alan Harvey, David Doubilet, Jodi Cobb, Sam Abell

Do you have a personal website or blog where you display your work?

You can follow me on Twitter: @cliftimestweet

What do you like to do to unwind and recharge?

I love a serious thunderstorm and I don't mind standing in the driving rain. I like kayak trips, days at the beach and hikes through the woods. A three-day kayak and camping trip is the best. I enjoy reality adventure television. I love spending time with my family and three children.

Lastly, can you share some of your favorite images with us, and tell us what makes them special to you?

I selected 20 pictures which I made since joining the Times in 1998. Each picture evokes an emotion and a memory for me.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

A waterspout crosses Clearwater Harbor near the Clearwater Memorial Causeway, Clearwater, FL. July, 1999

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Marissa Lyons dances with a nutcracker doll during the finale of a Nutcracker performance at the Largo Cultural Center in Largo, FL. December, 2002.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Great Bimini Paddlers, from left, Cortland Reilly, John Edwards and Mike Zajac-Batell perform an in-water change during their open water paddle from Miami to the Biminis. June, 2003

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Gabrielle Miller, Michele Miller, Miranda Miller and Kimberly Erickson explore Big Bayou at the Robert Crown Wilderness Area in New Port Richey, FL. July, 2012.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Three-week-old Yiorgos Bikakis gets a kiss from his cousin Savvas Psaras outside of St. Nicholas Cathedral during Epiphany day, Tarpon Springs, FL. January, 2007

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

A black cat blends into the shadows while hiding behind a small plant at Hire a Pony Riding Academy in Oldsmar, FL. August, 2003

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Ron Hydu launches his dinghy before navigating through St. Joseph Sound off Crystal Beach, FL, to his 20-foot sailboat. August, 2005

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Epiphany observers celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist in the River Jordan at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral during the 100th Epiphany celebration in Tarpon Springs, FL. January, 2006

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

The family of U.S. Army specialist Arturo Huerta-Cruz mourn at his casket moments after his body arrived in Clearwater, FL. The 23-year-old soldier was killed in Tuz, Iraq, by an improvised explosive device while he was serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. April, 2008

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

A pair of juvenile Eastern screech owls rest in a grapefruit tree in Crystal Beach, FL. July, 2008

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Nineteen-year-old Disney teen queen Selena Gomez performs to a sold-out crowd at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. July, 2011

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Pinklon Thomas, retired heavyweight boxer and former WBC heavyweight champion, attends the funeral of Hall of Fame trainer Angelo Dundee in Clearwater, FL. February, 2012

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

A tanker rests on wrecked boats at Brown's Marina in Bayou Chico in Pensacola. The boat was displaced by heavy storm surge which inundated Escambia County as hurricane Ivan made landfall in Pensacola, FL. September, 2004

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Griffen Eleby reacts to discovering his crushed Chrysler on s street in downtown New Orleans after a portion of a brick building collapsed onto the car as Hurricane Katrina made landfall east of New Orleans. August, 2005

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Shirley Ward's hands remain water logged after two days soaking in water on Rocheblave Street in New Orleans where she was stranded until being rescued after a nearby levee gave way to heavy rain and storm surge from hurricane Katrina. August, 2005

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Residents of New Orleans deal with the landfall of hurricane as they are forced to move to higher ground as rising water pushed into the swelling Mississippi River floods neighborhoods off North Claiborne Avenue in the Orleans Parish. August, 2005

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Cubans practice a session of early morning Tai Chi in the Little China district of Havana. August, 2006

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Edith Barrios lets her dog catch some of Havana's sun and balmy air on the roof of her apartment building on Prado Avenue in Old Havana. August, 2006

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Sharaya Smith hugs her daughter Shaylyn Smith while attending a civil rights event to honor The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in New Port Richey, FL. January, 2013

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Pete Boyar, of Las Vegas, Nevada, removes a chain from the neck of a ten-foot-tall pneumatic gorilla while prepping the beast for the King's Circus four-story funhouse in New Port Richey, FL. April, 2013

Douglas R. Clifford

Tampa Bay Times

dclifford@tampabay.com

@cliftimestweet

Visit the Times image archive to license or purchase a reprint of any image shown above.

Here are some previous "10 questions" posts you might enjoy:

Loren Elliott (Published February 15, 2016)

Zack Wittman (Published February 11, 2016)

All Eyes: 10 questions with … Times staff photographer Douglas R. Clifford 02/19/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 8:44am]
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