Dominican Republic Photographer Scratches an Untapped Niche
By Tim Cotroneo
Thiago da Cahuna’s photography career began by filling an untapped niche.
When da Cunha graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Management in 1992 he believed something was missing in the Caribbean hospitality market. During the course of his studies in the Dominican Republic he observed that the island’s travel industry photography needed more impact. He felt there was a need for premium photography that captured the mystique of the island’s beautiful oceanfront hotels.
Da Cunha realized early on that in the hospitality industry – a picture paints a thousand words.
The Portugese-born da Cunha began shooting interior and exterior shots of the Dominican Republic’s dazzling array of hotels. He soon would also add videography, culinary photography, real estate, and even yachts to his portfolio. Let’s look inside the multi-lingual Thiago da Cahuna’s life working as a photographer on one of the Caribbean’s most photogenic islands.
Questions and Answers with Thiago da Cunha:
Where are you based?
I am a Portugese photographer living in the Dominican Republic for 43 years.
How did you get started in photography?
I studied hotel management. Just as I was finishing my studies, I started working as a vacation photographer at Dominicus in Bayahibe. My job was to photograph hotel clients in different activities such as a moto tour, drinking coconuts at the beach, sunset photos of couples, eating big lobsters, pirates’ night, and on and on.
My boss then opened up another business in the Bahamas and I went to work there for some time doing the same thing but I was the only one doing everything (it was 1993 and we had to buy rolls of film, shoot and then develop them and show them to the hotel clients).
What is your favorite camera or “go-to” camera?
Nikon D850, Nikon Z72, Sony A7c as backup
How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
Looking at photo magazines such as PDN Photo News (there was no internet back then) and by actually photographing and doing jobs here and there. Now I buy online courses to stay up to the times.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
How to make a living with photography.
What is your photographic niche and what is it about this niche that appeals to, inspires, or satisfies you?
I am a hotel photographer living in the Caribbean. I have been in love with the hospitality business since I was around 12 years old when my father took me on a trip to some hotels where he had a business (he was the President of NCR for the Caribbean)
How did you start incorporating aerial photography into your skill set?
About 4 years ago. In the beginning, I had a supplier that did that for me when shooting hotels. Later I learned to fly a drone and got my own.
What are the typical preparations that go into your photographic shoots?
About three to four weeks ahead of the shoot, my client and I start to work on a program. We schedule everything from the day the crew arrives at the hotel to the day we leave. Wake-up time (usually 6 am), breakfast, 1st shoot, 2nd shoot, and so on until the end of the day at around 7 pm. We do this for all of the days the photo crew is going to be on location.
The vertical hotels (usually city hotels) have air conditioning and are simpler to plan because have to go up and down with the lifts. When photographing resorts, it is actually very complicated because we have to move everything horizontally, from one side of the resort to another and that can be very difficult just because of the logistics.
What is special or unique about shooting photographs in the Dominican Republic?
It is always very hot.
What do you try to say in your photographs?
With hotel photography, my main purpose is to communicate the sense of space and emotion a hotel can have.
Anything I haven’t asked that you’d like readers to know about you or your photography?
I am a Portuguese photographer born in Angola, speak 4 languages, and live in the Dominican Republic.
See more of Thiago da Cunha’s amazing photography at http://www.thiagodacunha.com/