Should the name Sandy Dyas sound familiar to you, you might recall seeing some of her work back in the day when the roots music magazine No Depression was printed with ink on paper, or perhaps you’ve read about and viewed her photography in various articles that I’ve posted on the internet over the years. Perhaps you were one of her students, or even a subject in one of her many photo essays. And if you’re truly fortunate, you own her book “Down To The River: Portraits of Iowa Musicians” which still sits on my desk for daily reflection and inspiration.
Grant Alden, founder and co-publisher of No Depression: “One of the many things I miss about no longer publishing a magazine is getting to work with photographers like Sandy. As I type this, it occurs to me that we e-mailed often, never met, and probably never even spoke on the phone. If she knocked on my door, I wouldn’t know what she looked like. And yet seeing her photos always makes my lips twitch upwards.”
Sandy: “Traveled down 80 on Wednesday for a trip to the Iowa State Fair. It was hot. Way too hot for six hours of being at the fair. But I was there and ready to find some photos. An August day at the state fair in Iowa…”
Sandy: “I started taking pictures when I was 8 or 9 years old. My dad gave me an old Brownie camera and then my parents gave me a Polaroid Swinger when I was in 7th grade, and then an Instamatic when I graduated from 8th grade. Back then I didn’t really know what a 35 mm was. My Uncle Bob had one that I saw him use occasionally and I vividly recall his slide shows at my Grandpa Roy’s house. My uncle would invite us over there for the evening when he and my Aunt Lu were visiting. He shot slides—primarily of flowers, trees, and landscapes. I was completely intrigued with these large, colorful images projected on that old screen in the darkened living room. I realize now how much those evenings influenced me.”
There was no state fair in the concrete and asphalt jungle of Philadelphia where I grew up. Not much livestock in our neighborhood. Nobody’s mom canned preserves or made quilts. I never did see a butter sculpture nor ate anything (other than a Popsicle) on a stick, or at least as I can recall. But in sixty-two when Pat Boone, Bobby Darin and Ann-Margret danced their way across the screen of the Mayfair theater over on Frankford Avenue and sang about how their state fair was the best state fair, I developed an interest.
Sandy: “I wear many hats–most are photographic hats. I teach photography at Cornell College part-time, usually 4 or 5 classes per year. Since it is not full-time and my income is about half of full-time professors, I freelance for the rest of my income. Portraiture is one of my skills and weddings have been a big source of income since 1976. I do photograph musicians fairly often but I also am commissioned to photograph non-musicians. I also do magazine and newspaper shoots–I suppose they are more “editorial” in nature but they always involve some portraits.
In a small California desert town and there was a county fair out near the lake every year. One year I drove out there, and played one of those “toss a ring over the neck of a Coke bottle” games and won a goldfish. Not a stuffed one from Taiwan, but a real live fish. I carried it around the fair in a glass bowl and took it back home to Los Angeles. He lived for about five or six years.
The five long winters living in the north country during the mid-late nineties were made a bit more tolerable by looking forward to what they call the Great Minnesota Get-Together at the end of each August through Labor Day. It’s such a huge event that the local television stations broadcast their morning shows and newscasts from the fairgrounds. Bombs may be raining down in the Middle East, an assassination in India or snipers cutting down students in Texas…but “the big news tonight is that our weatherman will be sampling the deep-fried candy bars, the deep-fried oreos, the deep-fried spaghetti and meatballs on a stick, the chocolate covered bacon and the pot roast sundae to give you the best of this year’s gluttony”.
Sandy: “Photography has taught me to pay attention to the little details in the everyday world. Teaching photography has done that too. I find myself talking to my students about getting in the zone, paying attention to the frame, slowing down and really seeing what is in front of you. Photography has taught me a great deal about life.”