Dave Trumpie moved here from Grand Rapids to attend Lansing Community College’s revered photography program. He admits, he never intended to stay – let alone build a business here. So how did this accidental resident unofficially become Lansing’s official photographer?
As it turns out, sometimes people choose Lansing and sometimes, Lansing chooses people. “I always wanted to be a photojournalist,” says Trumpie of his early career aspirations, “chasing cop cars and all the fun stuff.”
A Call to the Capitol
After finishing up at LCC, he was working steadily towards that fun at the Saginaw News when he received a phone call. It was Lansing. We wanted him back. “It was my old boss’ boss, from when I was an intern at the House of Representatives,” Trumpie recalls. “He said, ‘Our staff photographer is leaving and we'd like you to apply.’”
This phone call began a 12-year job that would eventually fuel the direction for the rest of Trumpie’s career. As the House of Representative’s staff photographer, a day in the office could mean anything from taking a posed photograph of representatives with a Girl Scout troop, to action shots of world leaders. From his post behind the camera, Trumpie has worked with Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Sam Donaldson, James Earl Jones and more.
“It was great,” says Trumpie. “I was allowed access beyond what the average newspaper media would have. I got to meet really big, celebrity people. I flew in a helicopter; I've been on Great Lakes freighters; I’ve been on Ear Force One – you know, the hot air balloon that is Mickey Mouse’s head.”
Of course. Everyone knows Ear Force One.
“To be there was very exciting,” says Trumpie of his time in the House of Representatives. “Everything comes through the Capitol.” In the midst of shooting his blend of mundane, prestigious and whimsical assignments, Trumpie was also meeting a lot of people. From political candidates to business people, many of the people he met through his day job were in need of professional photography services. The odd jobs he picked up on the side would become the early clients of Trumpie Photography
Though technically “odd jobs,” due to his Capitol connections, Trumpie’s side work was anything but insubstantial. In fact, the side work eventually became so interesting, it was difficult for him to consider spending time doing anything else.
Open Hearts Open Doors to Dreams
“The day I decided to quit was the day I shot an open heart surgery,” says Trumpie. “I said to myself, ‘this is way cooler than shooting school groups at the Capitol.’”
Trumpie Photography celebrated its tenth anniversary of that decision in 2011. Beginning to work outside of the Capitol Building was the first time Trumpie felt he really began to get to know Lansing, the place that had been his incidental home for more than a decade. No assignment contributed more meaningfully to this transition than when he became the photographer for Capital Gains.
“The day I landed the Capital Gains contract, I came home and told my wife and we were both really excited,” Trumpie recalls. “She said, ‘what can I do to help?’
“I told her we both needed to stop poo-pooing Lansing. I needed to change the mindset in this house.’”
An attitude change was just the beginning. Trumpie quickly realized, everything to love about Lansing was already there – he’d just been a little too busy to look in the right places at the right times.
“I remember one of my first assignments was to shoot Harem right after it opened,” he says. “The owner said not to come before midnight, but I showed up around 10:30 anyway. It was dead.”
Sure enough, come midnight the place was packed and Trumpie got some great crowd shots. Every week from that point forward he found himself shooting another new or growing business, local organizations doing great things and community events. Each assignment took him directly to where things were happening in Lansing.
“Once I started doing that and meeting all these people who are doing all these great things, I realized there’s really a lot going on here.” There has been a lot going on in Lansing, and thanks to his work with Capital Gains and the rest of his clients, Trumpie has a great deal of it stored neatly away on his computer.
“We put out an image-driven magazine,” says Trumpie. “There is no doubt that shooting continuously for Capital Gains has allowed me to have what is probably the most in-depth, stock libraries of Lansing imagery of the last five years.
Lansing’s Own Photographer
And don’t people know it. Trumpie receives calls from organizations and businesses all over the Greater Lansing area when Lansing photography is needed for a website or other purpose. Between his Capital Gains work and his well-known commercial photography work with many of the regions largest companies and organizations, the word is out about Trumpie’s reputation as Lansing’s own photographer.
Ask him about it, however, and he’ll nearly blush. “I think I'm aware of that,” he says. “But I know there are competitors out there who are very, very good. There are still companies out there I wish I worked for.”
Even if Trumpie Photography is unofficially the official photographer for Lansing, it is still looking to grow. What might have surprised Trumpie of 2001 is that Trumpie in 2012 is anticipating that growth to happen right here in Lansing.
“This is my community,” he says. “I sit on some boards. I belong to Rotary. I'm a Chamber member. I do volunteer photography for organizations that are real assets to our community. I feel like if they succeed, we all succeed.
“My wife and I bought the 1880s farm in Delta Township that we're going to die in,” he says with a smile. “When we all succeed together, Lansing is a place where I don't just want to work, but where I want to live.”
Over his varied career, Trumpie has yet to chase a cop car. He can, however, tell you what Hillary Clinton is like off-camera and what it felt like to stand on the closed Mackinac Bridge in 1987 during a state representative’s investigation of the Yugo that plunged off the side. But it’s safe to say his career looks very different than whatever he imagined back in his LCC days.
It’s also safe to say, if photojournalism is the act of telling a story through images, Dave Trumpie has earned being unofficially titled Lansing’s own photojournalist, telling the city’s story like no one else has for more than a decade.
Natalie Burg is thew news editor for Capital Gains.
is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Dave in the Board of Water & Light building just before the restoration project to create the Accident Fund's headquarters’s
One of Dave's first, and favorite, Capital Gains mastheads, a Cirque du Soleil performer in Lansing's Old Town
Capital City Airport shoot for the Lansing Chamber Of Commerce
Surgery at Lansing Regional Medical Center
President Bill Clinton speaking to a joint session of the Michigan Legislature
A worker 600 feet in the air cutting down the smokestack from the BWL power plant to begin the restoration of the future Accident Fund headquarters
James Earl Jones speaking at Albion College
One of Dave's favorite charity shoots, The Komen Race for the Cure
President Bush meets then Congressman Schwartz in Battle Creek
The annual tree lighting fireworks at the Capitol
All Photos © Dave Trumpie