Dennis Welsh’s photography inspires a sense of humbleness inside anyone who has the opportunity to view it. He has the uncanny ability to take real people, in real or produced situations, and create organic, spontaneous and relatable moments. His skill set is a true amalgamation of raw talent and his outgoing yet modest personality that has been shaped by the landscape and people he has had the great fortune to be around and work with in the Northeast and beyond.
We recently sat down with Dennis to dig a little bit deeper into his life inside and outside of the photography world and are excited to give you a bit more insight into the friendly and talented Mr. Welsh.
1. You are a real "salt of the earth" kind of guy and that comes across in your imagery. How do you think living and working in New England influences and shapes that description of you?
I began my professional career here on the coast of Maine, surrounded by artisans, craftsmen, fishermen, and farmers and I recognized early that it was their work ethic and their humility that really shaped who I am today as a photographer/director. The idea of taking on artistic airs or lofting yourself above anyone else is a complete anathema to the hard working people up here and it just became part of the fabric of who I am, not only professionally but personally as well.
I’ve had the great fortune to work with folks from all walks of life, from actors and politicians to registered guides and farmers. I’m not sure there’s an occupation I haven’t encountered in my work, but I approach each person exactly the same way, with respect and the understanding that I am going to do everything I can to put you at ease and make you proud of what we accomplish together.
2. We love your kid’s work. It is energetic, candid, silly at times and honest. How does being a father and family man seep into your process for these kinds of jobs and personal work?
There is no way I would have been able to understand what it is to truly photograph children in a genuine way prior to having kids of my own. Simply observing my own children and how they see and process the world around them has given me enormous insight into a child’s perspective and it’s really through that vantage point that has allowed me to bring out the best in my kids work.
It’s also taught me that you can have fun, be silly, or crazy with kids as long as they’re vested in the project, and the way to do that is give them ownership of the plan, whether it’s lending a hand creatively or simply asking for their input. Some of my favorite kid images have been borne out of collaborations with children. If I respect them, which I always do, and allow them into the process, they’ll always give 110%, and that’s why the images look the way they do.
3. You have worked with New Hampshire Tourism for several years producing still and motion content showing talent enjoying the wild outdoors. What is your favorite outdoor activity and why?
The seasons really dictate which activity is currently my favorite. Now that we’re in the thick of winter up here, I would have to say Nordic skiing is at the top of the list. My kids are all Nordic racers, so it’s great to get out there with them. We’ll probably get some winter climbing and downhill skiing in as well this season. During spring, summer, and fall, I’ll either be on a bike or running, backpacking in the mountains, or traveling on motorcycle trips with an old buddy of mine. No matter how you slice it, I am rarely indoors.
Because I’m so steeped in the outdoors, I understand what it takes to make compelling outdoor photography. Most of the activities I’ve photographed I’ve actually done, or am in the middle of doing just to make the photos. Whether it’s rock climbing or scuba diving, I am right there. And loving it.
4. Outside of New England, where have been your favorite places to travel? First for work. Second with your family.
I shot a project last year for a resort in Iceland that was really fantastic. It was an eight-day shoot, and the funny thing about the trip was that it took a while for Iceland to grow on me. The first couple of days I didn’t really like the landscape. Two more days in, it began to grow on me. Then I liked it. And on the last couple of days, I didn’t want to leave. It’s a completely unique place and I am so fortunate that I was able to work there.
As far as personally, I’m always happy when I’m in Ireland. I’ve been there five or six times now and it really does feel like home to me.
5. Aside from the outdoors, we know you love the guitar and often travel with it when you are working. Who are some of your favorite musicians and what is your favorite song to play?
I began playing guitar about twelve years ago, and I can honestly say I’ve moved up the ladder from awful through terrible now up to average. At least it’s not painful to listen to me anymore! I travel with it, because it’s a great way from me to sit, unwind and recharge my batteries. I go through periods of having different favorite musicians but right now I am deeply embedded in Mark Knopfler’s music. I am a finger-style player and I’m currently working on his song “Get Lucky.”
6. You seem to be a morning person… and a coffee person. Now without getting too personal, what is your favorite part about waking up with the sunrise?
I am definitely not up for every sunrise, let’s be clear on that. But when I am up and out before the sun comes up, I am always happy I made the effort and wish I did it more. My work usually has me out on location early and for me, there’s nothing like the energy of the crew in anticipation of the sunrise. It feels like horses in the gate, ready to bolt.
7. One of the things we love about you is how prolific you are. You are always shooting. What is the next personal project we should be keeping our eyes peeled for?
I have a couple of personal projects teed up, and I’m going to shoot both of them in video. I’ve been directing commercials for a while now, but these are going to be more long-form pieces, hopefully about two minutes each. The first one is going to have me re-visiting my “Dirty Old Men” motocross story that I shot in stills last year. I want to get back in there and tell the story of these old warriors and why they do what they do in motion. The other is a piece about friends all coming together in a very remote northern location for one purpose. I don’t want to say more than that now, but stay tuned.
8. We know that you love all of the projects you work on, but what has been your favorite in the past year and why?
2015 was a really fun year. I had the very good fortune of being able to work with clients including Exclusive Resorts, Leica, ACLU, State Farm Insurance, Nissan, New Hampshire Tourism, and Zoetis, but I think the most fascinating shoot I did this year was in Portugal shooting for Cork Supply USA. I spent a couple of days with local cork farmers, stripping cork from trees, then sending it to the plant for processing. It was one of the hottest shoots I’ve ever been on, but so fun to be out there with those guys watching them do what they do. It’s equal parts strength and finesse.