Skip Dean’s portfolio Homage was a 2022 Rfotofolio Work of Merit. We are pleased to share his work and words today.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
I am a Canadian residing in Toronto, Ontario. With a photography career spanning over 40
years, I began by capturing the energy of rock bands and model compositions. Gradually, my focus shifted to editorial assignments with prominent Canadian magazines. Transitioning from there, I established a commercial studio that specialized in Food and Pharma projects. In 2010, I embarked on an enriching experience teaching photography to design students at the Ontario College of Art and Design University for a rewarding 9-year period. As time went on, I found myself increasingly drawn to the realm of fine art photography, which has now become my predominant channel for self-expression.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
My creative journey has been influenced by numerous figures, including Creative/Art Directors, and the insights gleaned from books about various painters. One pivotal mentor was my instructor at OCADU in 1990, where I was enrolled in an Experimental Art class. He guided me in uncovering my inner child and this perspective made everything fall into place seamlessly. My influences are diverse; during my teenage years, I perpetually sought to unravel life’s mysteries. It all started when I acquired a camera from my brother-in-law.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has inspired you.
Identifying a single image that has inspired me is definitely a challenge… there are a multitude of inspiring works out there… I think that perhaps it isn’t a single image that inspires me, but I am continuously inspired by seeing images by other photographers who give life to the seemingly mundane objects of life. There is something refreshing about seeing a pylon gone amyss on a road, or a flat tire on a car that has sat on a street vacant for years and years… or, a slightly askew telephone pole that when photographed from a certain angle meets the corner of a roof of a house in such a symbiotic way….
Is there an image that you wish you would have taken and can you still see it?
I do not think so! I’m all about grabbing a shot right when inspiration strikes. If I miss it, I’d be carrying around a guilt suitcase the size of a mountain if I did not at least go back and try to capture it.
How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?
I seldom encounter such obstacles, but when I do, I engage in alternative activities. I find solace in reading, looking at photographic books, meet up and discuss ideas and hardships with other artists, and take long walks. I think this all in general contributes to helping me to think creatively whether facing a creative road block or not.
What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?
Undoubtedly, the most satisfying moments for me happen when I feel like a project or series feels complete. However, the pinnacle of reward lies in the many acts of being in the moment of actually taking the photograph. That “ahhhh I got it!” moment.
Please tell us about your process and the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.
The work I presented belongs to a series of photographs I have titled, “Homage”, these images draw on inspiration from the works of painters who’s works have meant a great deal to me.
These artists have guided me in translating their artistry into photographic compositions. My approach is rather straightforward: after minor adjustments in Photoshop, some images are subjected to Color Efex Pro 4 for enhancement. Then, these images are subsequently printed on fine art paper as tri-colour gum over palladium prints. This alternative printing process was important to me for this particular project because like paintings, each print in itself is completely unique to the next – even when using the same negatives.
What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?
My essential tools encompass Photoshop, my camera of course, and having a remarkable
Toronto-based printmaker. Bob Carnie has been printing in darkrooms for nearly 50 years, and has been a huge factor in enabling the realization of my creative vision.
What do you do when nothing seems to work?
It can be very frustrating when this happen, but one just keeps moving forward. There are
always new things to see and do. I find going to a new place for the first time helps me to see things with a new eye….
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
I am definitely drawn to trying out various printing techniques, which include the classic Salted Paper Print and the ethereal Cyanotype. There something intriguing about the vintage charm of Salted Paper Prints. They feel like they bring about a sense of nostalgia that I love to incorporate into some of my older, not-yet printed film photographs. Cyanotypes, on the other hand, with their captivating blue hues, offers a unique way to express a different mood for sure.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
I feel exceptionally fortunate to have spent nearly 45 years pursuing my passion, and I feel that art has kept my heart youthful. I try to approach life with the curiosity of a child, ceaselessly seeking captivating subjects.
What is on the horizon?
Currently, engaged in revisiting my extensive photographic collection spanning my entire
career. From the earliest stages to the present, these images wait to be brought to life and unified into a comprehensive series. I also look forward to learning some more alternative printing methods that I may be able to incorporate into highlighting some of the concepts I have in the works for a few photographic series.
To learn more about the work of Skip Dean please click on his name.