Dwayne Dixon picked up his first camera when he was 15 years old. It was a three-dollar camera from Goodwill. Born Feb. 18, 1949, in Indianapolis, by the time he was 18, he was drafted into the Navy and became an aircraft carrier.

After leaving the military, where he was stationed in Florida, he returned to Indianapolis and drove local bus routes.

One day, he felt like creating a photography display of everyday metro operations, and the bus company allowed it.

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“Something clicked. It must have been the Spirit of God that said, ‘You’re not a bus driver, you’re a photographer,’” said Dixon.

“So, I quit, just like that. It was a good job with a great paycheck and great benefits. It was the first time I ever jumped off faith into absolutely nothing.”
He traveled back to Florida and settled in Pensacola.

There, he was under the mentorship of the late Les Humphrey.

It started with a three-dollar camera from Goodwill
Dwayne Dixon created this photo collage of his life as a photographer after he suffered two strokes that affected his ability to do photography. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

Dixon said that Humphrey was his friend for 30 years until he passed away and that Humphrey taught him how to start and keep a photography business.

“He taught me Black photography. How to light Black skin the best way or shoot natural shots the best. So, I got married to my first wife, and we started Dwayne and Joyce Dixon’s Photography. We had our own studio,” said Dixon.

“Before that, I was the first Black news photojournalist for Pensacola News Journal. I would do jobs on the side, and what made me stand out was the fact that I would dress in suits for my assignments. I think that indirectly opened up the doors for other Black journalists.”

It started with a three-dollar camera

Dixon only had his photography studio for two years before a Hurricane hit the Gulf Coast and flooded it, destroying everything.

He traveled back to Indianapolis and took a job as a darkroom technician. He borrowed a camera from the company to take pictures on the side.

He went on to take a job with Music Photo International Company and travelled around the country taking photos of school basketball games, choir performances and more.

Eventually, he quit and established a new studio on 16th and Tibbs, where he focused on wedding, family and class reunion portraits.

“The thing with me is that people got them back the same day. I printed and developed my own photos, and I did that for over 30 years,” said Dixon.

It started with a three-dollar camera from Goodwill
Dwayne Dixon worked for a time freelancing for the Indianapolis Recorder. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

People like John Foulkes attest to Dixon’s accomplishments in photography.

“I call him the professor because Dwayne developed his photography skills early and continued to specialize in processing the perfect photo. He’s the one you talk to about cameras. His commitment to photography is not something he casually does; it’s who he is,” said Foulkes.

Along with his studio, he freelanced for numerous companies, such as the Indy 500, before contributing to the Indianapolis Recorder, where he said every photo he took landed on the front page.

He eventually remarried and moved his photography studio into a new building, where he continued to practice until suffering two strokes two years ago.

“They didn’t think I was going to make it. I didn’t even know who I was at first, but I knew I was determined not to be in a wheelchair. My motor skills were shot, but all I had was my photographic memory,” said Dixon.

He has yet to slow down, still dipping and dabbling in photography from home.
“My thing was, if it can’t be done, I can probably do it, and that opened up all of the doors I had here in Indianapolis,” said Dixon.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON.