Dean West

Our latest issue of the Journal showcases an interview with our artist Dean West, whose works elevate mundane moments into narratives that transcend the ordinary. Through meticulous staging and cinematic inspirations, Dean West invites viewers into a world where the subtle merges with the profound.

In this conversation, we explore the inspiration behind Dean West’s captivating creations, delving into recurring themes, the expressive role of color, and the painterly influences shaping his vision. From his series, The Palms, inspired by Florida’s diverse landscape, to the profound narratives woven into his photographs, Dean West provides insights into his creative process and the messages he aims to convey.

Your work is often described as transcending everyday occurrences beyond natural reality. What inspires you to create these meticulously staged scenes?

I draw a lot of inspiration from cinema and painting where every little detail is planned out. I love that level of thought that goes into making something meaningful. I also love planting subtle details or cues in my pictures. Sometimes a collector will come back to me years after acquiring a work to let me know they noticed something for the first time. I have an inherent desire to explore and expose a range of subjects, themes and concepts, from studio works to the meticulously staged.

Could you discuss any recurring themes or motifs in your work, and explain why they resonate with you?

I like to take everyday narratives, things I see, things I read- and point a cinematic lens at them. Each photograph is sort of a fragmented self portrait, a culmination of elements that I’ve decided to point a lens at to bring to the audience’s attention. It’s a reflection of what interests me at that time. I think that’s why it can be hard to define my work in a single sentence.

I’m always working on multiple ideas at once, refining and sometimes coming back to them over time/years sometimes. At the end of my career, I want to be able to look back and see a long journal of entries from all walks of my life.

What role do colors play as a means of expression in your works?

The use of color can make or break a picture. I look to great photographers like Eggleston and Shore and their poetic use of it. Color plays a huge role in creating the feeling of a place for me. It also helps harmonize those everyday elements into something beautiful.

Some of your works indeed have quite a painterly influence; which artists have influenced you in this regard?

Tableau photography or staged photography is in many ways more like painting than it is taking pictures. The creative control we have to produce a picture is akin to a painter’s brush and palette. Hopper and Hockney come to mind first along with many contemporary artists alike.

Can you tell us more about the latest series The Palms? Was it inspired by your home state of Florida?

Having visited Florida many times over the years I began seeing its potential around 2019. Obviously it’s the pools, palms and art deco architecture that draw you in at first glance, however, it was the underbelly of the region that drew my gaze. Latin culture, redneck and cowboy culture in its most rural areas, the divide between the rich and poor, the lush tropical landscapes and general themes based around the idea of the exotic. For me, Florida is the surrealist canvas I draw inspiration from to tell some of those stories.

How did art come into your life and why did you choose photography as your medium?

I was fascinated with telescopes as a kid and eventually my family purchased my first camera for me at age 7. It all came very naturally to me at the time and call it blind intuition if you will, I’ve never thought about anything else.

What do you hope viewers will take away from your photographs, particularly concerning the narratives and themes you explore?

Firstly, I hope they can appreciate a sense of beauty in each work: Its use of light, color and composition. Some viewers may appreciate the simplicity, or the complexity of a work. But mostly I hope it transports them to a place – maybe even somewhere they’ve seen before but see it anew, from a different perspective, seeing it for the very first time.

List of works: Dean West
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