BY EMMA TAYLOR
Bradenton recently acquired a new creative resident in renowned photographer David Tejada. Tejada has enjoyed a successful career as a commercial photographer that has spanned 40 years and led him to 57 different countries. With no signs of slowing down any time soon, Tejada brings a fresh worldly vision to Manatee County with some exciting ideas for new projects.
Photography was just a hobby for the Newport Beach, California, native when he was working as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines in the late 1970s. Tejada was selling his “Ansel Adams-esque” art prints to fellow flight attendants when fate came knocking in the form of commercial photographer Joe Baraban.
Baraban boarded one of Tejada’s flights toting ample camera equipment and the two struck up a conversation that would open the door for Tejada’s long and prolific career as a professional photographer.
“It was November when I met him (Baraban) and I was preparing to bid for Christmas off. Instead, I bid for a schedule that would allow me to fly out to Los Angeles to watch him work. We did a capabilities brochure for Shell Oil. It was the first time I’d seen strobe lights, umbrellas—all that sort of stuff. I was really a ‘rock and tree, wilderness’ kind of guy. After five days of shooting this assignment, my heart just sank when they dropped me off. I had found myself as a man and I knew exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Tejada says powerfully of his first glimpse into the realm of commercial photography. The trip eventually led to a job offer and Tejada quit his position with the airline and moved to Houston, Texas. He worked for Baraban for about a year and a half before relocating to Denver and setting up his own business in 1983.
Once settled back in Colorado, Tejada made a name or himself focusing his work on a niche that he refers to as “big industry”—photographing for Fortune 500 companies primarily in the fields of oil and gas, mining, and engineering. However, Tejada also came to specialize in location work. And his willingness to
travel over his four decades in the corporate sphere has fostered partnerships with a wide array of companies throughout his career.
But Tejada’s corporate success shouldn’t be mistaken for a loss of his artistic roots. He’s a devoted student of light and has developed and taught programs around the world to share his artistic vision. “I love shooting people and it’s a strength of mine. Sometimes corporate work can be very safe—not so dramatic in lighting, but I love to light. I became pretty well known for my use of what are called ‘speed lights’—small flashes that go on top of a 35mm camera,” he says.
The photography world took notice of Tejada’s unique approach to lighting and doors began to open for him as an instructor on the subject.
Tejada spent nine years teaching workshops in locations around the world for Popular Photography magazine. He developed a program for Santa Fe Photographic Arts Workshops in New Mexico called “Small Strobes, Big Results.” And he eventually brought the program overseas at the encouragement of an Austrian student attending his Santa Fe-based course. His workshop went on to serve as credit toward admission to an artists’ guild—a necessity for prospective professional photographers in Austria. Tejada has shared his techniques and lighting methods from New Mexico to Maine, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Dubai, and now, Bradenton.
Tejada’s wife, Deb, once lived in Sarasota and the two have vacationed in the area many times over the years. While Tejada maintains many long-standing accounts, the pandemic brought on a new professional landscape in the world of commercial photography and a change of location seemed to go along with it.
Admittedly a “humidity hater,” Tejada decided to come down to Florida for a month-long trial run in July of 2021 to really test his fortitude among the viscous atmosphere. During which time he shot “about seven or eight assignments” for Sarasota Magazine, and he and Deb came off their stay with an intent to call the area home. Perhaps the air isn’t the only sticky thing about the Tampa Bay Area.
While retirement would be age-appropriate and within Tejada’s means, it doesn’t seem to be in his nature. As in the climate of many creative minds, his ideas seem to have no age nor financial agenda.
Recently, Tejada has started carving out a concept for a new project—dignified
representations of seniors “in their element.”
“My work is very polished, and I’d love to be able to make ordinary people look like they belong in an ad. It’s not a traditional portrait. It’s an environmental snapshot that places them where they belong—where they’re remembered most by family—If dad was always sailing if mom was always cooking. I want those very cherished memories to be imprinted on those images. Why take them out of their known environment and put a backdrop behind them? That’s not where I’m at. I’d love to get out on someone’s boat and make them like they’re in a Louis Vuitton ad. That would be something they’d never forget,” Tejada says of the burgeoning project.
In the meantime, Tejada has begun a collaboration with a new marketing firm out of Sarasota called Vivid Studios Digital Agency and is taking jobs that keep him busy based on very simple criteria. “I don’t care how large or small the projects are. I just like to be active and take pictures,” he says.
The original idea for this issue’s cover of Bradenton Magazine was a drone shot of Old Main Street, but some pesky trees proved problematic for an aerial perspective. So, Tejada and Editor-in-Chief, Paula Wright, put their heads together and the result is this beautifully composed shot of the downtown harbor.
Tejada’s creative passion and experience are sure to have an impact on the growing artistic community in Manatee County. Once he and Deb finish the renovation their new home, you may run into him on the water fishing, or you can contact him for commissions.
Tejada’s work can be viewed on his website: davidtejada.com.