Dean Kotula

As a documentary photographer my primary aim is to inform my audience and spotlight incidences of social injustice in an effort to play a part in redressing them. Civil rights, sustainable fisheries, the environment, labor, and animal protection are issues of primary interest to me.

The camera has provided the foothold, the daring to plunge from the precipice of the known to chart a path through arduous physical and psychological landscapes to horizons of greater understanding.

The themes in my work are the chapter headings in the story of my life. Not merely a spectator, I am most often a member of the communities I photograph; I’ve worked beside them in their work, shared in their suffering and joys, long before my camera enters into the scene. I believe my familiarity with my subjects helps to vitalize the work by lending credibility and an empathetic interpretation.

I prefer the timeless quality of black & white pictures and only shoot in color when color is a crucial component in carrying the message. My compositions are formal, centering on key elements. The images follow in the journalistic tradition in that they are straight forward and unadulterated, conveying the “unvarnished truth”. The photographs I exhibit are never culled from hundreds taken from a particular scene. I don’t blast away with the camera and play the odds of getting something acceptable. Rather, I rely on patience, skills I’ve developed over time, and the knowledge I have of the subject to know when to press the shutter to capture its rhythm and essence. After all these years I believe there is clear evidence of a durable stylistic and thematic signature to my work.

Photographers whose work has had a marked influence on my own include such notables as Margaret Bourke-White, W. Eugene Smith, and Sebastian Salgado.