Boston photographer Steve Dunwell has traveled the world shooting for corporations and magazines and eventually settled in Beantown – er, sorry, “The Athens of America” – and, after having his New England photos serve as the basis for many publishers’ coffee-table books, up and started his own publishing company himself. Plus, he got to study under the legendary Walker Evans, which is a story in itself.
“I’m very interested in the environments that people create,” Dunwell says, “and the way they inhabit them. I concentrate on themes involving what people build, including architectural landscape, industrial history and aerial photography. I’m also interested in portraiture and interpreting people in the environment they inhabit.”
Born in New Rochelle, N.Y., and raised further upstate in Poughkeepsie, Dunwell attended the Quaker academy Oakwood Friends School there. His father had worked for IBM, and in their retirement helped administer a community arts programs at the town’s Bardavon Opera House, a venerable Hudson Valley performance venue and cultural institution dating to 1869. He became interested in photography when he got to Yale – albeit as a science major. “I was extremely fortunate to get an on-campus job working in the darkroom that supplied photographic services to the science department,” Dunwell recalls “Thom Brown, the guy who ran it, was a protégé of [the Guggenheim Fellow landscape photographer] Paul Caponigro. I learned tremendous technical background in that situation.”
It was also that Yale that he studied with Walker Evans, whose photographs of the Great Depression have become iconic American images. Evans was appointed a professor of photography in the graphic-design department of the Yale School of Art and Architecture.
“He had these tutorials each semester with six or eight people,” Dunwell recalls. ” We’d meet one hour a week for the term, looking over the pictures. Walker Evans was a very intellectual sort of artist. Walker was concerned about making pictures that were very austere. His pictures did not try to be pretty. They were documents: ‘This is what this room looks like, what this person’s face looks like.’ My interest was documentary photography, so this was perfect for me.”
Dunwell graduated from Yale in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War. He registered as a conscientious objector, partly based on his schooling. “I am not a Quaker but am sympathetic to them,” he says. “Conscientious objectors were required to provide an alternative service to the country, so I worked as a photojournalist for religious organizations involved in rural development.”
He spent 10 years in that capacity, shooting primarily for non-profit organizations’ journals. His work took him to Brazil, Ghana, India, Paraguay and the Philippines. He occasionally got work in such magazines as National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler and Forbes, but after a peripatetic decade decided, “I wanted to be in New England more of the time.” Hooking up with some regional publications, he moved to Boston in 1976 “and made a career focusing on New England as subject matter.”
To that end, after having provided photographs for about a dozen coffee-table books with names like Connecticut: A Scenic Discovery, Duke: A Portrait, Mystic Seaport and U.S.S. Constitution: Old Ironsides for various publishers, Dunwell about 10 years ago started Back Bay Press. “I create and publish picture books,” he says modestly of a major entrepreneurial undertaking.
“I was working for publishers, and had done quite a few books with them, so I knew a fair amount of how you do it; I’d always been interested in the procedures and techniques. The books reinforce my position in this field, and I’m always creating new pictures that I put into [updated editions] of the books.” As well, cleverly, he took over some of the rights to his out-of-print books from other publishers.
Dunwell, who taught for a couple of years at New England School of Photography, says of this Panasonic foray, “I’m always excited to see new equipment, and Leica lenses are known to be the very best; this is a great feature of the Linux camera. I will be learning my way around the camera, and then I’ll understand better what its special virtues are.” Dunwell’s, of course, are already apparent.
Call Digital Photo Academy at 1 877 372 2231. Lots of people seem to hang up if our welcome recording comes on instead of a live voice, but we promise to return your message within a day or two if you leave one with your name and number. It would be even better if you included your e mail address as well as the date and city of the class you are considering. If leaving a voice mail message is not your thing, please email us at DPAbooking@digitalphotoacademy.com or Richard@digitalphotoacademy.com.
“I had a wonderful time at the Boston Public Library shoot. It was raining in Boston, so fortunately we had a great indoor venue. I had the smallest camera there (Canon G12), and the instructor Steve Dunwell was very respectful about that (I’ve had instructors in other places who get a little snooty about those things).
I had a real breakthrough…I’d been flying on automatic for the 13 months that I’ve owned the camera, and just needed someone to say get it out of automatic and at least set it on program. I went all the way to manual and, with Steve’s help, was able to actually work the dials and buttons and take some pretty good shots. I’ve attached a few.
I’ll be looking for more DPA courses in the future.”
– Hannah Diozzi
“I had an excellent experience in an advanced class taught by Steve Dunwell in Boston. We lucked out with the weather, stumbled upon a Veterans’ Day parade and shot evening picture of interesting lit bridges. It was a good combination of field and Photoshop instruction. I’m sure I will be taking courses in the future.”
– Stephen Shapiro
“Everyone looks so great in this pic! Nice to have your company on the DSLR camera exploration class! Hope we can all continue to share resources and keep in touch about photography as a group.
Steve, thank you for sending these resources along. I am so glad that I signed up for the class, because I definitely came away with a better understanding of aperture, ISO, shutter speed, white balance, histograms, and tips for taking better photos! I ended up flipping through my camera manual when I got home, and I was delighted to find that I could understand so much more of what the terms meant where before it was too technical for me to grasp. I feel reinvigorated and am excited to explore more of the features on my camera, build on the unconditional knowledge I gained, and dive in to taking more photos.”
“Thank you for providing such a valuable class.
Not only have my skills improved but I feel much more confident in my work!”
– Lucie Wicker
“Thanks, Steve. I learned a great deal yesterday and had much fun. I think the composition of the group worked well as a class. You did a great job of working with all of us at our levels and on the concerns we had. I think you covered an incredible amount of information and were most generous of your time. Would love to do something like this again with you.”
– Bob Bass
“The Camera Club Weekend Workshop was great. Steve did a good job. The Advanced morning session and field trip was a plus. Thanks Amy, and Thank you Richard…. Hoping to see you soon. I’m sending you guys my 5 pics for the national magazines. It’s been my dream to see it in these magazine.”
– Prabhat K Srestha
“Thanks so much for your help regarding my enrollment in Boston Intermediate Class with Steve Dunwell. The Class was terrific! Steve was organized, energetic, and gracious. In addition to his obvious talents as a photographer, he’s a terrific teacher. And, the Griffin Museum was a wonderful site in which to attend class. Thanks again for everything. A truly rewarding class!”
– Carl Cascella
“I found the course with Steve Dunwell to be incredibly informative, practical, and helpful. I was particularly appreciative of the tutorial you gave concerning indoor shots.”
– Jeffery Long
“The workshop in Harvard Sq last Saturday am was excellent. June and I both took away several ideas that you offered which will help us improve our photography. Also compliment you on providing education, fun and moving around to incorporate multiple subjects. Great job! ”
-Steve & June Carson
“The weather in Boston on Sunday was perfect, good thing shoot was moved to 9am, started getting hot by noon. Steve shared some great tips and took us to several wonderful places in Beacon Hill. I took many pictures so when I edit a few I will send some to you.”
“I apologize for not getting back sooner. I loved the class. Steve, the instructor was very relaxed as he gave some helpful tips. We walked around Beacon Hill and got some great pics. He pointed out some great shots and always had a helpful tip to share. He was also available to ask anything. I thought he was great and would love to take another class with him. ”
“Thanks very much Steve,
I enjoyed the workshop and the group. Thanks also for the gallery suggestions and resources.
“The course was great and although I am a novice and have a very simple, small, automatic Nikon Coolpix camera, I got some photos that I was happy with (see attached) I hope to take more classes in the future.”
“I had a great experience and enjoyed Steve’s great enthusiasm for photography.
I have attached some photos from that day. I learned more in one day with Steve than countless years of point and shoot….