Frederick J. Dunn has made his mark in so many fields. From education to farming, to raising prize-fowl, great husband and father, and now world-renowned photographer. Yes, that’s our newest title for the handsome shutterbug, who has decided his true passion is photography. Fred is now becoming well-known on the east coast in the U.S., and it won’t be long before he is known throughout the world, a visionary who knows how to capture every intimate and beautiful moment of a person’s life, from high school or college graduation, birthday party, and heaven-forbid we not remind our readers, he’s the wedding photographer extraordinaire.
Highlight Hollywood caught up with the busiest and most talented man in Pennsylvania, also one of the most handsome, and married to Annette, a supermodel-looking genius. They are truly lovely people, whom I’ve known for years, and consider family.
HH~How exciting was it to be hired to shoot Amanda Hanshaw? Was she as exquisite as she seems in your photos? Was it a surprise to you to be called?
FD~As you know Tommy, Annette takes all of my appointments and does the scheduling for me… when she said who was calling, I thought it was a prank to be honest! I mean, Amanda has been photographed coast to coast by some really great photographers. She narrowed it down to 10 photographers and ultimately me! I was very excited obviously… when we had our meeting, she was very nice and completely personable, as was her fiance Brent. On her wedding day, I found Amanda to be extremely easy to work with, she took creative direction very well and demonstrated flawless modeling execution throughout the wedding and reception. She was a pure joy to work with, and was what I call “photoshop ready” no blemishes to edit nor touch-ups necessary. I was completely flattered that she selected me.
HH~What is it about water, and underwater shots becoming so popular? I have a friend who suggested to me, getting married IN WATER in the Rainforest. No thanks! So, have you been taking a beating no pun intended underwater and even above water shooting couples?
FD~Straight portraiture is fun and can be artistic of course, but when you add water (rain, puddles, rivers, lakes and pools) it adds a completely new venue of creativity. Being underwater is the closest thing to flying I can think of… hair flows, garments spread out in creative ways and light does some amazing things as it’s refracted through water. I did get slammed pretty good a few times, during a recent lake session, the waves were 5′, which is pretty big for a lake. I would follow my couple out (verifying first that they are both good swimmers), would take photos and hold my camera over my head as the waves washed over me also. I LOVE the dynamic that is provided by challenging elements. Another couple had their session in a local river, again, the water swirling around them, provided compositional elements which created a very dramatic and intimate portrait for them. Of course, clothes get wet, hair is soaked and makeup can run or smudge… it’s all part of the experience. Not many photographers are willing to put themselves through that, I’m more than happy to. Even high school seniors have come to “expect something” different during their sessions… one client was so funny, I just assumed she was a very formal and timid soul… when I said “ok, that’s it then” she paused with a sad expression… “but, don’t I have to get in the water or something? I’ll lay in that river!” and so it goes… it’s a “thing”.
HH~Do you find people’s 2014 wedding tastes to be similar these days or more eclectic?
FD~Definitely eclectic… Annette tells me that we’re shooting more than 30 weddings “again” this year… so we see the full range. Tradition is still strong with some couples, but others have changed everything and often don’t even use a Church. I did a biker wedding, can’t even talk about that one in detail, it was in a field surrounded by woods and near a river. I’m not even sure if that was a legitimate wedding ceremony and it was wild to say the least. There was definitely no standard to follow there… other couples don’t throw the bouquet and no garter… there is a rise in garden, barn and weddings on beaches over traditional Churches. Some Churches in our area charge over $700.00 just to use the sanctuary. Several weddings involve horses and some include their pets in photo sessions after the ceremony.
HH~You also do a great deal of senior teen pictures, do you find any age group more open to your suggestions about being shot?
FD~Seniors are definitely open to anything and their greatest motivation is that they want something completely different than their friends and classmates. I am non-traditional in my approach to senior portraits and with Facebook and Website albums, they already know which photographer they want before they even meet me. Some still like traditional studio formal portraits and that’s not my crowd… others want something to talk about afterwords and show their friends they can be highly artistic or daring in various weather conditions (definitely my kind of senior).
HH~What has been your toughest shoot this year, and why?
FD~Winter weather definitely provides the greatest challenge… my policy is that if you can pose in it, I can definitely shoot in it… well, that’s sort of a mistake as I’ve done portrait sesions in 16 deg. f weather… that’s hard on cameras and of course, I eventually lose the feeling in my fingers. I have to pack the cameras in insulated wraps so they warm up super slow (several hours) after a cold weather session. You can cause condensation inside the magnesium camera bodies and have problems, so that’s what I consider the toughest situation/environment.
HH~Did you set out to retire and have your photographic life/career take over, or is this something that happened without planning for a while at least?
FD~It happened without planning it Tommy… my “plan” was to paint in oils for the rest of my life. Photography was always a tool for painting and not the main thing. I was teaching a class in Art and Design for a year, while the teacher was on extended medical leave. The photography component of the class was a turning point for me. Students (10-12 graders) were bringing in their photos from area photographers, and were often very unhappy with the results. One student compelled me to re-shoot her senior portraits, something I did not want to do, but decided to use it as a teaching tool. Well, that did it… the requests came often and weddings were soon part of it also. I never wanted to be a wedding photographer… my father had done that for decades and I always dreaded the lock step routine of wedding photography. BUT, as we’ve already discussed, weddings are not what they used to be, so I’m all in now! I am busier than I have ever been and it’s all good.
HH~You drag poor Annette all over the place, do you find volunteers when you arrive, or is Annette your chief helper?
FD~That’s funny, because I receive many calls and e-mails, normally from budding photographers, people wanting to serve as helpers, or just to learn by shadowing me. Annette takes the calls and declines… she is indeed my main lighting assistant and she also takes care of the paperwork. It’s a bonus when there are other family members on a shoot who aren’t in the photos, I always hand out extra speed lights for more elaborate lighting in those situations. Keeping up with me on location isn’t easy, I’m a run-and-gun sort of photographer. Annette stays out of the water and puts on a frownie face when it’s cold outside, or raining, while I celebrate those dynamics.
HH~What would you like to photograph that you haven’t already? I don’t mean bears or wolves, knowing you, you’ve already done that, I mean style, tornado wedding in Kansas perhaps?
FD~Those tornado photos were dynamic! As were the ones someone took with a forest fire in the background… for me, if I had the perfect couple, it would be an underwater wedding ceremony… the entire thing. Scuba gear, communications that repeat topside for guests to hear… guests that have their own scuba gear could sit on the bottom while I slowly swim around shooting it… that would be my favorite situation for something new. It CAN be done…. when I was in the Navy, I re-enlisted underwater and it was just plain fun.
HH~How can people reach you to hire you for their special day?
HH~Do you still have time for your honeybees and chickens?
FD~Yes! I still study honey bees and chickens are very easy to keep and maintain. Our chickens free range and are always visible right through our kitchen windows. If you don’t have time for chickens and bees, then it’s time to find a new occupation! I spend about 30 minutes a day doing chicken and honey bee chores. Photography takes up about 12 hours a day.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Frederick Dunn Photography
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