Hawk Photography celebrates 30th anniversary

This June marks the 30th anniversary of Hawk Photography, a Wilton-based full service studio specializing in portrait, wedding, bar and bat mitzvah, corporate and real estate photography.
In the winter of 1985, owner, founder and sole photographer Daryl Hawk got his professional start photographing for a full-service studio in Hilton Head, S.C. He freelanced for Hilton Head’s newspaper and shot his first travel documentary at Daufuskie Island before deciding he was not suited to the southern climate, moving back to his home state of Connecticut the same year, to the town of Westport, and then  to Wilton before the year’s end.
Immediately, Hawk was faced with the urgency of securing an income. He called himself Hawk Photography, made business cards and flyers, and started to receive commissions for portraiture. He quickly expanded into schools, photographing graduations and sporting events. During Hawk Photography’s second year, Hawk began to get requests for weddings. That market has since become Hawk Photography’s focus and main source of income.
The studio now produces 75 wedding albums every year.
“As a photographer, I’m known for my travel documentaries, and for my ability to get an in-depth look into some of the most remote places on Earth. When I photograph a wedding, I’m getting that same in-depth look into one of the most important days of a subject’s life.”
Hawk operates the business with the help of his wife, Heidi.
“Heidi handles most of our computer-related work, like social media, editing, Photoshopping and client correspondence. She also looks after the business while I’m traveling, all on top of raising our two boys and working a couple of part-time jobs herself.”
For Daryl, however, she helps in a way that no one else can.
“When there is a tough decision to be made, I always seek Heidi’s advice. I value her wisdom and opinions above all else.”
Much of Hawk’s photography is done on-site. The studio on Bossy Lane is a 1940s farmhouse on picturesque grounds that serve as backdrops for portraits and other similar shoots. There is a garden, an artificial waterfall and pond, an old bell and a log-cabin built by Hawk and his father. Hawk also built a stone bench on which subjects may sit and be photographed. Hawk Photography’s studio is the oldest building in the neighborhood.

Hawk on photography

Daryl Hawk stands by the idea that smiling is a universal language, which is important for a man who is constantly confronted with language barriers during his travels.
“You don’t need to speak a word of their language and they don’t need to speak a word of yours; as long as you’re smiling, there is a level of understanding.”
He added that smiling has the potential to elicit natural results from subjects that are otherwise difficult to shoot.
“When you smile and make conversation, people tend to relax. You combine that with a peaceful, natural setting and then all of a sudden they’re not stiff; they’re not worried about having their picture taken. That’s when the true magic happens.”
Hawk considers the most significant products of his 30 years of experience to be a refined creative process and a better understanding of the subtleties of light. “Someone once said that photography is painting with light, and I’ve always found that to be true. You know, you can never master the nuances of light, no matter how long you’re in the business, but after 30 years, you really learn how to get the best possible lighting for any given shot.”

On the industry

The migration to digital photography is an industry change that Hawk Photography has been around long enough to have experienced first-hand.
“I switched over about seven years ago,” Hawk said. “With digital, you could shoot low-lighting areas, and right away, you saw what you were getting on the display. There was a time when you couldn’t gauge your success until flying all the way back to your studio and developing your film.”
But according to Hawk, there was a certain charm to that wait.
“I’m better off now, but I do miss the suspense of not being able to see my work until the moment I got home, and then witnessing all my efforts light up before me all at once. It was all very exciting.”
Hawk also observed that the advent of digital photography has led to a corporate commission fall-off.
“I’d say that amateur photographers have more of a market share now when it comes to corporate photography. I used to do more headshots and executive portraits, but now, if you can take a decent picture and you’re willing to work at a favorable rate, there really isn’t much else you need to be commissioned for corporate work.”
Hawk has sold corporate photography to Fortune 500 corporations such as IBM, Deloitte, and General Electric.
He is a member of the Explorers Club, an international multidisciplinary professional society for the advancement of field research. Notable past and present members include Neil Armstrong, Jane Goodall, and Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Hawk is also an active member of the Wilton community. He is on the board of directors for the Norwalk River Watershed Association as well as Wilton Go Green, a nonprofit organization incorporated to further sustainable initiatives within the town. Additionally, he has judged a number of photography contests, led youth workshops, and given presentations at Wilton Library.
In September at Wilton Library, Hawk will present “Sacred Places of the World,” a lecture featuring sacred and spiritual photographs he took in faraway places such as the Arctic, Antarctica, the Andes, Patagonia, Argentina, Ladakh, India, Bhutan and New Zealand.
Information: hawkphotography.com, darylhawk.com