Picture This :: The Male Portraiture of Dave Dietz
Portrait of a photographer: Boston-based shutterbug David Dietz had a steady job at a private school when fate intervened in late 2011. "I was working at Walnut Hill School for the Arts," Dietz recollected. "It’s a performing and visual arts high school in Natick. I’d been there since we’d moved to Boston, and basically what happened is that my job got eliminated.
"I had a pretty unique job being an in-house graphic designer," Dietz added. "They decided to re-structure and made a new position that was more a classic PR kind of position." Dietz could have wrung his hands, hung his head, and bemoaned his fate, finding himself jobless along with eight million other Americans in the wake of the Great Recession. But he had a different idea: To answer an artistic calling.
"The time was right," Dietz told EDGE, adding that his former occupation "was a job where, at the beginning, it was a challenge--and by the end there was no longer any challenge there.
"I had wanted to do photography for some time," Dietz continued. "I had some photography to do in that job, and I had done it back in college; I was a film and photography major before I switched to fine arts. I hadn’t done photography in a while, but two and a half years ago, on Christmas Eve, my husband Karl gave me a digital camera. We went to Easton Mountain for New Year’s and I started taking pictures. I decided I wanted to take a good picture of every guy that was in attendance there, there were about 60 guys or so. I found I was making a really good connection to the guys; people liked my photos a lot; some people were kind of amazed that I had the camera for three days. We ended up doing a slide presentation for the talent show. Since then, I’ve been hooked by doing photography again."
Getting to the point where he was willing to make a go at professional photography may not have taken much time, but the decision did take some thought.
"When I was laid off, I took some time to figure out what I wanted to do next," Dietz recounted. "I went to Easton Mountain for the whole month of October to do some volunteer work and just think--just see what would come to me. Really, nothing else did, except for photography It was the only thing I felt I was passionate about. By the end of the month it seemed so obvious a choice. Since then I’ve been pursuing it."
A Home for Art
Easton Mountain, one of Dietz’s first artistic homes, is also a place many men regard as a spiritual home. Easton Mountain is a gay men’s retreat in upstate New York, established 11 years ago by John Stasio and run by a small key staff and a cadre of volunteers. The retreat center hosts dozens of programs, workshops, and events throughout the year, from its extremely popular annual New Year’s celebration to supportive, healing programs like Queer Spirit Camp and Living Full Out.
"I started dong a lot of events there and putting them on Facebook," Dietz recounted. "I was told that my pictures get the most hits on their Facebook page, and then they asked to use some of my photos for a catalogue. I also did their Holiday card this last year, which was great. I was there when we had one of last winter’s few snowstorms, at the end of October, so it was a beautiful snow-covered scene. The timing was perfect."
The retreat center’s website includes a number of Dietz’s photos. It’s a good match, given that Dietz prefers his settings (and his models) to be natural. "I prefer to shoot outdoors whenever possible especially in nature," the photographer noted. "Men in nature is my favorite thing to shoot."
But Dietz’s work isn’t only online; it’s also on walls. Dietz is a member of Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC). A number of his photos are on display at the group’s gallery, Made in Fort Point, which is located at 12 Farnsworth Street in Boston. Moreover, Dietz’s work is on display at the Blue Glass Café in the John Hancock building, located at 300 Clarendon street, through July 16.
And, of course, his photos grace the halls of Easton Mountain. "This last New Year’s, exactly two years after I got the camera, I had my first show there," Dietz said. "That was fun, because a lot of the pictures I’d taken Easton, but there were also pictures from all around London and Paris. It was nice; it really went over. I sold about ten photos. Some of the guys that were there were in some of the photos, and I’m hopefully going to do it again this New Year’s."
His work at Easton Mountain opened some doors, leading to Dietz’s work being featured in two gay publications.
"’Boston Spirit’ ran a story about Easton Mountain a couple of months ago, and they used some of my photos for that, and also interviewed me for that, as well," Dietz said.
"Another publication that ran some of my work is a PDF magazine out of the UK called All Bear, and they did a feature on Kendall Kelly, who is a Bear celebrity; he’s a singer and performer.
"I was at Easton Mountain for the first Bear Weekend back in February, and he mentioned the he needed pictures for a magazine he was going to be in, and Dennis [Petragnani, Easton’s General Manager] suggested I take the pictures," Dietz explained. "So we did them there at Easton, and he was going to be in the next issue of All Bear, but I guess they liked the pictures so much they made a special edition out of it, mostly of him."
While it’s nice to attract attention on the strength of one’s work and talent alone, any business also involves at least a modicum of marketing. So far, Dietz suggested, his marketing efforts haven’t had to eat up a lot of his time and energy.
"It’s a mix; one thing leads to another," the photographer reflected. "For instance, I’ve done my church’s gala, the Arlington Street Church, shot their gala for the last three years. Recently, our intern minister hired me to shoot her ordination, I think that’s a direct result of my volunteer work. Right now, it’s more word of mouth, or people see my photos and [contact me for some work]."
That includes portrait work, headshots, and other commercial work, in addition to Dietz’s artistic photography. Dietz summarized his business model, saying, "I do personal photo shoots for guys tailored to their intentions."
"It took me a while. I developed my web site, so I have that going now, but I really think it’s more word of mouth."