Hotspots Sex Issue photographer Dennis Dean discusses life behind the voyeuristic lens.
What’s your claim-to-fame?
My claim-to-fame would be that I’m an award-winning photographer, who photographs men artistically.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town in Alabama called Sylacauga.
What’s something special about Sylacauga that isn’t common knowledge?
The famous Jim Nabors was born there—you know, Gomer Pyle. I got to meet him at his concert in Birmingham. He invited me to dinner, and his best friend called while we were eating. It was Carol Burnett.
What do you miss about Alabama?
I miss my family. They’ve always been supportive of me, when I knew I was gay at age 11.
How long have you lived in South Florida?
I’ve been here since October 1995.
Why did you move here?
I got a job as the general manager for the Fort Lauderdale Players.
What part of South Florida do you live in?
I now live in Oakland Park.
What do you like most about living here?
I love the people, the different cultures, and the location. There are so many wonderful places and people to photograph here.
If you had to live somewhere else other than here, where would you live?
I would say London. When I did my two exhibitions there, I got to know my way around. Plus, who doesn’t like a British accent?!
Where do you hang out in South Florida?
If I’m not photographing at the beach, or at one of the amazing gay guesthouses we have here, I’m exploring Wilton Drive. There are many great bars and restaurants there.
What South Florida venue do you miss that’s gone?
I miss the Copa. That was a fun place, and I had some good times there.
Which one of your old jobs least prepared you for what you do now?
I was on a theatre scholarship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and I had a job where we would tour around the state of Alabama singing and dancing showtunes.
I don’t usually dance when I’m photographing; however, I have caught myself singing a showtune (laughs).
What first drew you to photography?
I got my first camera at age 14. I learned early on that I could make the cute boys smile back at me when I photograph them.
What was your first professional gig?
Photographing the mayor of my hometown for the local newspaper. I got $75 for the shoot.
Other than yourself, who’s your favorite photographer?
Herb Ritts. I got to meet him when he exhibited his photography here at the Fort Lauderdale Museum. He was a kind-hearted and very talented man who died too young.
Is print photography a higher art the digital photography?
I’ve done them both. When I had my dark room and processed the film and saw the image from the chemicals onto the paper, it was magic; it was art! It’s so exciting; I do miss it. However, now it’s all about how fast can you get the edited image to me. I’ll say there are some advantages to that. You can edit, color-correct, and crop your image to perfection. But you not only need to be a good photographer, you must know how to edit to get the results the client wants. I’ve created and seen amazing digital photography art. I would say they’re both a higher art. Print is more vintage art, and digital is modern art.
What’s the best magazine cover that you ever shot?
Last year’s Hotspots Sex Issue cover. I got to photograph five beautiful people who represented each letter in “LGBTQ.”
Who would you love to photograph?
Any celebrity, local model, or brand that has my photo work on a building or billboard in Times Square. That’s always been one of my goals.
What local personality who’s gone would you love to have photographed?
I adored Pompano Bill. Many of you have been photographed by him over the years while you were out and about. I would love to have photographed him with the background of photographs of all the men he shot.
What’s the best photography show that you were ever in?
I was excited about the opening show last month that I coordinated and curated with incredible artists from ArtsUnited, along with my photography at the new Hotspots Art Gallery. We had an amazing crowd, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the award-winning artist Axel Martinez gifted me a huge painting of myself! We sold lots of art. That was definitely a night to remember and the best show ever!
Of all the pictures you’ve ever taken, what’s your favorite one?
The image is called “Within Reach.” It’s the cover image of my first book. It was taken over 20 years ago, but it’s an artistic and timeless photograph of a beautiful man lying in a stable.
What genre do you like to work in the best?
I like to photograph pets, headshots, and commercial products. But my favorite is photographing men artistically.
What was the most difficult thing that you ever photographed?
Crying babies are the most difficult. I say never again, but once you see their adorable face with their two dads, how can you not be patient and create the photo that they’ll cherish forever?
What’s the hottest shoot that you were ever on?
I was on photo assignment in Las Vegas shooting for Passport Magazine for their annual Swimwear Issue. I was photographing these four beautiful models at Caesars Palace, and all of a sudden a huge crowd gathered and started watching me photographing these guys, and at the end of the session they all applauded.
What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you on a shoot?
I almost got arrested shooting a model in front of Buckingham Palace in London. He was totally nude, but had a full-length coat on—it was freezing weather in January. I started photographing him while he was opening his coat. A few clicks in, I see two white cars coming near us. And yes indeed it was the London Police saying to me, “What are you doing?” I turned my Southern accent on and told them that I was from Alabama and I wanted to photograph my friend wearing this coat in front of the Queen’s house to give to my friends in Alabama. They asked my friend, “Are you nude under your coat?” He was honest and said yes, also in a Southern accent, but he was British (laughs). They looked at both of us and said, “You got 30 seconds to get out of here, or you’re going with us.” We of course got the hell out of there.
Of all the photography awards that you’ve won, which won is the most special to you?
It was the very first award that I won. I was 19 years old at my hometown’s annual art festival. My family was so proud of me, and they knew that I had the drive to be a famous photographer one day.
What would do you for a career if you weren’t a photographer?
I would be a theatre producer or casting director.
What’s your motto about photography?
If your photo is not becoming to you, then you should come to me. So if I’ve not photographed you, then let’s make it happen. And if I have, then what’s taken you so long for our next session (laughs).
Where can we see you?
You can see my photography on Instagram at dennisdeanimages, or online at www.dennisdean.com. You can also see my work at the new Hotspots Art Gallery. I showcase new images every month. We have two events per month on the first and third Saturday. The gallery hours are by appointment only by calling (754) 200-1577 or by emailing me at email@example.com.