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Neil Dankoff • Follow Your Dream

You often hear that you should follow your dreams and find a job that you are passionate about. However, as Neil Dankoff explains, reality sometimes has a way of altering your plans

I was 40 years old, running a small photography business from home and the most exotic place I had ever travelled to was Florida to visit my grandparents.

My passion was photography but I wasn’t taking any pictures myself as I had student photographers visiting my clients (summer camps, dance schools and so on).

However, over the years I had been working on several landscape photography techniques that involved taking multiple vertical photos (overlapping each other by 30%) while blending various exposures and focal points in an effort to create large, vibrant panoramic prints.

I was at the point where my business was running itself, so I decided to chase a dream. I bought a plane ticket to Israel and spent 10 days photographing the incredibly diverse landscapes. I woke up each morning before the sun, set up my camera for whatever I was shooting and waited for the magical light show that only a sunrise can create.

I was instantly hooked and loved everything that had to do with being a landscape photographer. Researching new destinations, the adventure in getting there and the challenge of capturing an image to match your expectations.

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Over the next seven years, I went on many more photography trips, established a relationship with a prominent art gallery (Lonsdale Gallery in Toronto) and held annual solo exhibits featuring my most recent fine art photography.

In 2015 I opened my own gallery (Kandy Gallery) in Montreal with partners Derek and Kirsty Stern. I was also surprised to find myself featured in an article entitled ‘Top Ten Photographers in Canada’. It was this article that would lead to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone in my field. The article was read by Henry Kallan, who was in the process of building his seventh hotel (Hotel X Toronto) and he was looking for one artist to photograph pieces for every room, corridor and lobby area within the hotel. Henry contacted me as well as a few other landscape photographers and after several meetings, it came down to myself and one more photographer with galleries in the US. I was fortunate enough to get the commission but was told I needed to shoot 800 original photos in the next three months. I knew this was impossible but took my father’s advice and took a much bigger bite than I could chew.

I was given the freedom to choose my own locations and quickly booked trips to all of the places on my ten-year bucket list: Croatia, Bolivia, Japan, China, France, Hawaii, Iceland and many more.

Hotel X Toronto is no ordinary hotel (it has a rooftop pool, two movie theatres, tennis and squash courts, a state-of-the-art fitness facility, restaurants, bars...) so construction delays were inevitable and I was afforded more time to complete my task at hand.

My partner Derek happens to be a pilot and ended up flying me to a lot of the destinations. We posted some videos of our photography trips on social media and after a short time we were approached with the idea of producing a non-scripted TV show documenting our adventures. We filmed the pilot in Oregon and signed with Buck Productions.

I continued to work on completing the hotel commission and developed a great working relationship with owner Henry Kallan. As a result, we decided to open another Kandy Gallery within the hotel itself.

It is now the end of June and both the hotel and gallery are open and we have chosen Dallas as our location for our third Kandy Gallery (plans are to have it up and running by the end of the year).

The last few years have been an incredible ride where one thing has luckily led to another without any real planning. I can truly attest to the fact that if you love your work it isn’t really work at all, and your results will be the best that you can possibly produce.

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