by bob allen
But the 14 photos Dennison has on display through Aug. 4 at the Fine Print Gallery, 7 W. Allegheny Ave., Towson, are the result of a far more freewheeling and lighthearted expedition than his typical corporate or institutional shoot.
"When I'm on vacation, I just like to play," said Dennison, who named his exhibit "Treehouse: St. Lucia," after the property where he stayed on vacation this past winter on the West Indies island of St. Lucia.
"If it's a pretty day, and I see things I like, I'll just go out and start shooting, and sometimes I get on a roll," added Denison, 51, who grew up in Towson and attended McDonogh School.
Denison said that when vacationing he makes a point of leaving behind all the expensive cameras and cumbersome gear he uses the rest of the year. Instead, he'll take a camera that's markedly different from ones he uses at home, like a simple point-and-shoot model.
For the St. Lucia trip, he packed a SX-70 Polaroid single-lens reflex instant camera that was manufactured in the 1970s. Denison bought his SX-70 in a secondhand shop a long time ago, but had hardly used it in years. He also took about 10 rolls of 5- or 6-year-old film which, needless to say, had long outlived its expiration date.
"I just wondered what (the photos) would look like shot on this film, with this camera and I just started playing with it," said Denison who earned a bachelor's degree in art and religion at Washington College in Chestertown before opting to pursue photography as a profession in the late 1970s.
"All these photos were shot right in the surrounding area of the property where we stayed in St. Lucia," said Denison, who apprenticed for three years as a photographer's assistant before going into business for himself in 1980.
Much to his delight, the expired Polaroid film "changed the whole aesthetic" of the still lives and nature studies he shot on the island.
He describes the result as a "happy convergence of outdated SX -70 Polaroid film, a vacation in the Caribbean and a spontaneous appreciation of the beauty at hand."
"When the photos came out, they had this sort of degraded look, which gave some unusual highlights to the different colors, which, I think, added to the mystique and ambience," he said.
Back home in Towson, Denison scanned the Polaroid prints and used the digital images to print 32-by-32-inch prints of 14 of his favorite shots on watercolor paper, which further enhanced the unusual ambience.
Denison said that as busy as he usually is keeping his long list of blue-chip clients happy, he'd never considered taking the time to stage an exhibit. And the notion only crossed his mind after several friends saw the St. Lucia photos and made the suggestion.
"I think the outdated film and the inherent qualities of the camera helped create a mood and a certain timeless quality," he said of he St. Lucia photos.
On the other hand, he mused, "someone else might see one and go, 'Hhmm ... what's wrong with that photo?'"
Bill Denison's Web site (www.billdenisonphoto.com) includes a virtual gallery of his photographs. For directions and additional information about his "Treehouse: St. Lucia" exhibit, call 410-847-9774, or visit www.thefineprintllc.com.