Saying Goodbye to James

Saying Goodbye to James

“This is an adventure.” – Steve Zissou

James Dixson. This is an adventure.

On Sunday morning, I got the call that one of my oldest friends, Atomicdust co-founder and former partner, James Dixson, had died from a heart attack in the night.

James and I met at McCluer North High School in Florissant about 25 years ago, and almost every day since then, we dreamed and tried everything we could to build a company that we would want to come to work at every day.

Atomicdust 2002

Last December, James left Atomicdust to set out on his own and start a new photography company. (James would want me to link to his website. Ha.)

After spending the past 20 years sitting in the same room with him every day, it was weird for him not to be around anymore. But James would still come by and hang out, show up to help with events, and always be up for a drink at Small Batch. We were family. Always have been, always will be.

Knowing he won’t be around anymore has our whole team, and especially his brother, Taylor, feeling pretty hollow.

Dr. James Dixson will be greatly missed. (James was given the nickname “Doctor” by our high school psychology teacher. It stuck for 25 years.)

James was a competent air-cooled VW mechanic and one of the best gift wrappers I have ever seen. He was an excellent father. He owned more camping adventure gear than he knew what to do with, was an excellent carpenter and prided himself on being able to jump in the air, do the splits and touch his toes.

James Dixson Toe-Touch

If you want to hear more stories about James, or share your own, there’s a party to celebrate his life on Thursday at Brennan’s in the Central West End, 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Atomicdust’s office will be closing early on Thursday to attend. All are welcome.

James and Agnes

James is survived by his wife, Katie, and young daughter, Agnes. If you’d like to make a donation to Agnes’ education fund, I know James and his family would appreciate it.

Donations can be sent directly to her savings account via to [email protected]



Jazzy found this bio James wrote for our website in 2013, and we thought this would be a great place to share it.

James Dixson

Where’d you go to school and what did you study?

I didn’t really go to school. All the development courses were a few years behind what was actually happening on the internet in 1996 when we bought

What do you do outside of work?

I like photography, cooking, my motorcycle and canoeing. I’ll pretty much do anything that’s outside except team sports or watching team sports. (Not a Cardinals fan.)

When I’m not shooting stuff at the office I like street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson is my favorite photographer. (Something about the decisive moment…) I’m a certified level 3 canoe instructor and have paddled every river in Missouri at one point or another. Dirtbikes are just cool even if its a little redneck.

What do you wish you had more time to do?

I wish I had more time (and money) to travel. I think there’s a huge difference between traveling and being a tourist. I like to find the local joints and culture and usually take a few photos, opposed to going to Disney World or whatever all-inclusive resort. I’d rather walk through the barrios of NYC or ride a motorcycle across Puerto Rico than sit on a beach. I’m also deathly afraid of sea anemones and swimming in the ocean. I’ll do it so I don’t look like a coward but I’d prefer to stay out of the water. My dream vacation would be a round-the-world trip on a motorcycle…need more time.

What do you want people to say when they look at your/our work? 

I want people to feel an emotional connection in the way a Wes Anderson movie creates a connection with the characters. I want people to see the passion our clients have for their products or services through our work. I only want to work for clients with brands that I/we believe in and would use ourselves. Pastaria, Rockwood, etc.

Share a quote about the industry, advice, or what you’ve learned so far. 

Do better today than we did yesterday. Is that too ethereal? I often slip backwards but I like the idea of constant improvement. Whenever I take a photo or cook something, I always want an honest critique. People will often say, “That’s an awesome image,” or “Those fish tacos were incredible,” but I want to know how to improve it. What would make it better, even if it’s totally subjective, so I can improve whatever it is next time.


Here’s to next time, James.


Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

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