Dean M. Chriss

Biography

Photo of Dean M. Chriss

I started taking pictures as a kid in what used to be rural America in the mid 1960s. My Kodak Instamatic 100 camera was free, given away to promote some paper towels. Back then I photographed anything, from "cool" cars to abandoned buildings to nature. Most of my photos back then combined the hand of man and nature in some way. I remember an old wooden gate that was overgrown with some vines and weeds. I think the photo has long since perished. Later on I got a Minolta SRT 201. It was my first "real" camera and I was very excited to get it. I remember being equally disappointed with the prints I got back from the local drugstore. This incredibly expensive camera made pictures that weren't much better than those from my old Instamatic! Since I was way to young to drive, I got my mom to agree to take me a meeting of a local nature photography club held at a county park nature center. I kept going twice every month. That is where I learned that my lousy prints were the drugstore's fault, how to shoot slide film, and countless other bits of wisdom from an old guy named Bill Meyer. Eventually I also learned how to make my own prints in a darkroom. That old Minolta camera stayed with me through way too many years studying mathematics, physics, chemistry, and psychology in college. I still have the old Minolta, and it still works.

I bought a Canon A-1 and some lenses with proceeds from my first job that didn't involve pizzas or sweeping floors. The Canon equipment was purchased in preparation for a trip out to New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah with a colleague who was my age but very well traveled. At the time I had ever been further than a day's drive away from home. That trip, which included Canyon DeChelly, Zion, and Bryce national parks, had a profound effect on the rest of my life. From the moment I got home I couldn't wait to go back. I spent another nine years or so working as an engineer who would rather be out taking pictures. As I progressed within the company the job became a high pressure one that often involved working 50 to 60 hours per week. Having a measly two weeks of vacation each year was an enormous problem. After five years of employment I got three weeks per year, which was much better but still woefully inadequate. The company was always closed from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day, so three weeks of vacation guaranteed two trips of two weeks each, plus a few long weekends. It also meant spending all of the big holidays away from family and friends. It wasn't ideal, but it was the only way I could photograph and experience nature's wonders. During that part of my life I learned that time is all a person really has, and you can impoverish yourself by selling too much of it. Greed never helped anyone.

Nearly a decade after I started that job, my former manager, the person who hired me, and two other colleagues left the company to start a small consulting firm. Not long after that they asked me to join them. My decision took about ten seconds. Some of my work landed me in the Rocky Mountain states and in the desert southwest. I'd usually work 40 hours in four days and have three days with a free vehicle to go off and take pictures. I also had a lot more time off. It was great, but after about four years being away from home so much started getting old. After realizing that I was spending more time in motels than I was at home, I ended up striking out on my own and working locally. That was about 30 years ago. Since then I've done photography for between two and four months every year except one, taking the time in two to five week chunks spread throughout the year. While I would have enjoyed more time out exploring and taking pictures, I think my life has been fairly well balanced. I have been very lucky. If I could offer some reason for that I'd say it's keeping a cool head, keeping your commitments, and giving whoever buys your time a deal you can both be happy with. I will soon retire from my "day job" and I am looking forward to life's continuing journey.

In the meantime I have printed all of my own work digitally since 1997. This allows me to maintain a consistent visual interpretation from the first eyewitness view in the field all the way through to the finished print. I have also made prints for other photographers, reproduced works for painters and other visual artists, and digitally restored and printed historically significant photographs for corporate and private collections. I use some of the most advanced tools, materials, and processes that exist and have gained decades of evolving experience using them. My work was first published in the United States in 1986 and my photographs have since been published in more than twenty-five countries distributed across Europe, North America, and South Asia.

Photographer's Statement

Nature photography, especially the field work, brings rewards that are intangible. My relationship with the natural world is among my greatest treasures. Photography allows me to share my view of that world and has in turn helped me to see my subjects in a much more intimate way. Because unspoiled landscapes and wildlife are disappearing so rapidly I am driven to see and photograph as much as I can while they still exist, and while I am physically able. Concern and respect for my subjects is the driving force behind my photography. I believe that personal involvement with one’s subjects is as an absolute prerequisite for the creation of compelling images.

Photographic images realize their ultimate potential in printed form. Everything from the techniques used to optimize an image to the paper it is printed on influences the final result. Fine art printmaking is the ultimate expression of my work. I always hope my prints convey to others the wonder, awe, and joy that existed when the images were captured.

Sample Clients, Credits, and Venues

Allegheny College, PennsylvaniaDean photographing a reddish egret
Art by the Falls, Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Artisans' Corner Gallery, Newbury Ohio
Asian Photography Magazine
Audubon Society
Beautyway Publications
Brecksville Center for the Arts, Brecksville, Ohio
Cain Park Arts Festival, Cleveland Hts., Ohio
Cleveland Metroparks System, Ohio
College Club of Cleveland
Cuyahoga Valley Photographic Society
Cuyahoga Valley Trails Association
Death Valley Natural History Association
Digital Photographer Magazine
East Shore Invitational Art Show, Kirtland, Ohio
Glacier National Park, Montana
Heights Arts, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Holden Arboretum, Kirtland, Ohio
Lakewood Arts Festival
Lake County Metroparks System, Ohio
Lakewood Photographic Society, Ohio
Lorain County Metroparks System, Ohio
Mildred Wardlaw Nature Trails, British Columbia, Canada
Pilgrimage Magazine
Science Illustrated Magazine, Denmark
Shambhala Publications
Sierra Club
South Wing Gallery, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Susan G. Komen Foundation
Summit County Metroparks, Ohio
The Art Gallery, Willoughby, Ohio
The Choral Project, San Jose, California
The West Woods Nature Arts Festival, Novelty, Ohio
United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland
University Hospitals
Valley Art Center, Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Waterloo 7 Gallery, Willoughby Hills, Ohio
Willoughby ArtsFest, Willoughby, Ohio
Willoughby Hills Community Gallery, Ohio
Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington
Dean M. Chriss is a member of Nature First, The Alliance for Responsible Nature Photography