Photographer Dean Oros Blends Artistry and Documentary

Story by Bonnie Schiedel, Photos by Dean Oros



Superior Outdoors


The Arts

Dean Oros’s first experience with photography as a film and television student didn’t exactly foretell his future passion for it. “When I started formally studying, we had one semester of black and white documentary photography. […] I was a starving student, and I wasn't really that interested in photography—it's expensive to develop your own film, and I was eating a lot of Kraft Dinner,” he says. “It was kind of set on the back burner for a really, really long time.” Later, however, after a successful 18-year career in film and television, he was looking for a change. “One of my contracts got cut short and I was walking around the streets of downtown Toronto during a lunch break, trying to figure out what my next move was going to be,” he says. “And I kept getting distracted by all these everyday moments that I was seeing—all those little moments that equate to life. And it just kind of hit me like a brick over my head. I went back to my office that afternoon, and I started calling photographers in the city whose work I admired and said, ‘I think I want to be a professional photographer.’” Oros did indeed start a photography business, concentrating mainly on wedding photography. “I fell in love with the whole documentary aspect of it,” he says. A couple career changes later (he’s now a correctional officer) Oros still loves photography as a sideline. When he moved from Toronto to Thunder Bay three years ago, easy access to the area’s natural beauty was a key consideration in deciding where to relocate. “Being a correctional officer, it's a stressful profession. And photography, for me, is a good way to decompress. While I share my photography with a lot of people, the actual act of making my pictures is quite personal for me, and calming and peaceful.” He often works in black and white, and he continues to draw on that long-ago semester spent learning black and white documentary photography. “I learned on a manual 35mm film camera […] and that's where I learned the essentials of light, and the inner workings of a camera,” Oros says. “If you're able to understand how [a] camera sees light, and how it sees differently from the human eye and our brain, you can try and get what you see in your head into a still photograph.” Oros points to his recent “Story of Water” series, taken in and around Thunder Bay during high water levels last spring, as an example of the power of black and white. “Sometimes in an image, the colour helps you tell the story, but not always. […] Sometimes colour can actually be a distraction. […] For my water series, I found that the colour of the water wasn’t really important to the story that I was trying to tell in that series of photographs […] I wanted to separate water from all of its natural environment. And that was kind of like the pinnacle for me, when that story started to really make sense.” To see more of Dean Oros’s work, visit main. deanorosphoto.com or follow @deanorosphoto on Instagram.