Highlight Hollywood Catches Up With Photographer Frederick Dunn, Discussing The Birds, The Bees And Black & White Photography

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Frederick Dunn is perhaps one of the most gifted photographers I’ve ever known.  In a field that is cluttered with much of the same style, angles and images, Fred has suspended all doubt, and has created some of the most iconic images I’ve ever seen to date.  His style is unique, his gifts are bountiful, and his beautiful assistant Annette proves that behind every good and successful man is an even brighter woman.  We love to catch up with Fred to see what he’s up to lately, and this time it’s a real treat.  Fred knows that I am a lover of black and white images, as no other style of photography captures the soul, the essence like non-color work.  I had to ask him all about this, and a lot more.

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Q ~ Last year your photography work, which was always superb, seemed to change and you were able to make it more unique for each subject. Have you grown and matured in your comfort level with people and if so, do you speak with them before you photograph their events, to decide what theme they want, or do you just take it at the ‘moment’?

 

Fred ~ Thank you Tommy! I have always actually been very comfortable around people, even those I am meeting for the first time. There is a confidence that comes with knowing that they have already viewed my work online and generally know several people who have worked with me in the past.

 

 

At times, there is an established “theme” such as Victorian or Renaissance… maybe equestrian? But other than that, we select an environment or weather conditions and go from there.

My style is to tease a lot and make jokes, all the while, observing and learning about my subject. I exploit whatever I determine their disposition to be… happy, sad, dramatic or dead pan serious. It’s definitely a process that takes often more than an hour!

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Q ~ As you know, I love black and white photography, it is what captured the beauty of humans more than anything. Have you started using a lot more black and white photography? And how are clients taking to it?

 

 

Fred ~ You are not alone in your appreciation for the black and white portrait, and for me, I expand that treatment to monochromatic. There is a psychological impact that color and light brings, for example, blues are cool, oranges and yellow are warm… they carry that to the viewer. Take away that warmth and color response, and we are left with shades of white to black, forcing us to “feel” the texture and form in the absence of strong colors. I am providing you with some of my most poignant monochromatic images. Many of the portraits can come across as profoundly sad or melancholy. I find great joy in capturing a thoughtful not-so-posed portrait. Black and white or monochromatic images are less than 5% of my work… we are definitely in the age of color.

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Q ~ You are one of the few people I know who seem totally comfortable with children on film. I won’t work with kids or animals on screen, ever, and yet you seem to have the most amazing kids to photograph. Is Annette sitting on the sidelines feeding them candy or are they just so well behaved? What’s your trick to getting kids to focus and to concentrate long enough to get so many amazing photos?

 

 

Fred ~  Kids! Well Tommy, it all goes back to the fact that I had a wonderful childhood and tap into those memories often. I always meet children on their level and I am truly happy to see them. Recently, I had a family session to do and there were two girls and a boy. I watched the family arrive and observed the children (maybe 10-12 years of age) hesitatingly and grudgingly getting out of the family suv. I was already at the back of my vehicle, gearing up and called out to the kids.. “hey kids, want to see a baby monkey!!” They all lit up with smiles and came running over to my car, on tip toes, looking expectantly into the back. “Where is the monkey, one little girl asked, Oh.. there isn’t one.. oh wait.. did YOU think “I” had a monkey here?! Their faces went to frowns and I snapped their response. Thanks for those highly emotive portraits kids! This is how I often begin, and I follow immediately with questions about what they think we are going to do. I love it! I never tell children to smile, they just eventually get there on their own.

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Q ~ Our readers absolutely loved your underwater shots, I know it’s too cold now, but did you do a lot more of those over the summer of 2015?

 

 

Fred ~ For underwater photography, 2015 was a big disappointment for me. The routine photography quickly filled the schedule and there truly wasn’t much room left for ART. I even worked on Christmas day if you can believe that! 2016 is looking better.

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Q ~ Fred, did you do a lot of animal subjects last year, or were the bulk of your workload wedding and reception-related?

 

 

Fred ~ We did do some animal photography and lots of that on a micro/macro level. But of course, it was another big wedding year with more than 30 weddings covered. I definitely suffered from wedding overload in 2015 and wedding dates for 2016 are already FULL. We are booking into 2017 already. When we get senior portrait or artistic clients, that’s like a vacation to be honest. I really enjoy the smaller, more intimate one on one sessions. Fantasy photos, subjects like faeries or pre-raphaelite style themes are favorites.

 

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Q ~ Winter as you know is my favorite season. Do you have any seasons that you prefer to photograph in? And did you get amazing shots during last weekend’s blizzard?

 

 

Fred ~ I don’t have a favorite season, as each part of the year brings something unique and dramatic. The blizzard missed us, though we did get lots of snow. We did get several really nice portrait sessions during snowfall. I like the high key aspect of snow portraiture, everything just glows and reflects! BUT, the drawback is that my subjects get rosy cheeks, red ears and runny noses pretty fast. We just did a snow-fairy and it was perfect. I make the most of whatever season we’re in. I suppose spring is the worst with all the rain and muddy conditions.

 

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Q ~ You have really taken up photography as a labor of love. Do you see yourself doing this a lot more in 2016, as if you could take on any more work, that is?

 

 

Fred ~ Tommy… I “pretend” to hate my job when I look at the full schedule that Annette has scribbled her notes all over. Then I pause and think of all the people out there, who wish they could “make it” as photographers. I would be a terrible person to complain about doing what I truly enjoy. I don’t advertise and never offer specials, and we had completely done away with “mini-sessions”. Annette takes all of the scheduling calls and is left to juggle what people want and weigh what we truly can provide. I am trying to get Annette to leave space on the schedule for honey bees, chickens and of course, artistic photo sessions just for the fun of it. Not everything should have a price tag on it!

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Q ~ What ambitious projects are you taking on this year in photography, and by the way, do you still raise bees?

 

 

Fred ~ Yes to the bees… my honey bee videos on YouTube are a true HIT, almost as popular as my chicken videos, that channel receives over 85,000 views per month! Hard to wrap my mind around that many people watching honeybee and chicken videos. This year I wanted to study cinematography, but quickly learned from Annette, that I just don’t have the time on the schedule. So, my plan is simply to make the most of the sessions I have ahead of me. As I have already mentioned, 2016 wedding season is already booked up. There are openings for High School Seniors and small commitments like that. The sad part has been having to turn down work I truly wanted to do.  You can learn more about Fred’s amazing photography here!

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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy:   Frederick Dunn Photography
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