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Meet Dennis Haggar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dennis Haggar.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was born in San Diego and grew up in East County mostly, but my parents moved around lot when I was younger. In fact, we moved more than 25 times to 5 different states by the time I was 14. Money was tight. At times, we lived out of our car, and I recall working at a very early age to help support the family and put food on the table. It wasn’t easy, but we managed. And, no matter how many times we moved around, we always ended up returning to San Diego. I believe all this moving around and traveling as a kid stirred in me a desire to explore new places and to meet new people.

My interest in photography started when I was in middle school. We took a family road trip from San Diego to Orlando, and my parents gave me a used Kodak 110 pocket camera to take pictures of our travels. I remember the camera body was completely wrapped in chrome and it looked like a harmonica. It was my first camera, and I was excited to use it, and use it I did. I went through several rolls of film during our trip, taking pictures of landmarks, nature, and sunsets. Along the way, my parents stopped at a few air bases so I could grab a few shots of jet airplanes and helicopters (I was fascinated by flight and wanted to join the Air Force, as my grandfather did before me). Needless to say, I was hooked and I think photography became an outlet for me.

In high school I took photography classes. I had an awesome teacher, Mr. Brown, who taught me how to use my Canon 35mm SLR camera and how to develop film (which fueled my love for black and white photography). Some of my portrait work won first place at the San Diego County Fair, which was exciting for me. Mr. Brown was a great teach and mentor. Tragically, during my senior year in high school, he was killed in a freak scuba diving accident in La Jolla. To this day I still remember him, and I am thankful for the wisdom he shared and the impact he made on my life and love for photography.

After high school I joined the Air Force. I was fortunate to be stationed in Alaska, one of the most beautiful and scenic places in the world…a photographer’s dream! Unfortunately, work kept me extremely busy and photography took a back seat. I ended up living in Alaska for almost 10 years. I absolutely loved it. My first apartment was on Kit Road in North Pole, Alaska, right behind the Santa Claus House (I’m not kidding!). Even though I was shooting less, I still managed to sneak out from time to time and visit some gorgeous places, like Denali National Park, Wasilla Valley, Portage Glacier, Alyeska, Kenai, Homer and Seward, and was able to capture many wonderful pictures during my time there.

I eventually moved back to San Diego to be closer to my grandparents and family. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I began using a camera again. This time, I was using the camera on my cell phone to capture sunsets and seaside landscapes, posting them on Instagram. I was encouraged by the support shown for my work, and it renewed my interest and love for photography. I’m back using a Canon DSLR, and slowly but surely have been building my portfolio and sharing my work. And now, it’s leads me here, to this interview, which I am so grateful for.

Please tell us about your art.
Most of my work is geared towards outdoor and landscape photography. I think I’m drawn to this type of photography because I really love being outdoors. I enjoy exploring everything nature has to offer and being outside. Southern California has some of the best beaches and coastlines in the world, so I’m easily drawn to these places for sunsets and inspiration. But, I also enjoy exploring our mountain ranges and desert valleys as well. I treat every outing like an adventure. Even if I do not end up getting any pictures, I’m just happy to be out there enjoying the beauty of it all, and relaxing in the peace and quiet…it just soothes my soul and puts my mind at ease.

Some of my favorite work consists of long exposure (slow shutter speeds) and silhouette shots. My hope is that my work tells a story, shares an experience, or stirs an emotion. I often post a video backstory of my work to give my Instagram followers a “behind the scenes” look at the surrounding landscape and the conditions of my work environment. I feel that sharing both the photo and the video is impactful, and provides a better understanding of how a photographic artist captures “the shot.”

Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
Be patient and persistent. I believe photographic artists must exercise both of these characteristics for the best results. Often times, for example, I will go to the same location over and over again. I will spend hours sitting in one location or spot. Waiting. Analyzing conditions, scouting the terrain, or changing the composition. When, and if, it all comes together, I get the shot. If it doesn’t all come together, that’s okay too…I’ll be back! You have to earn it. When you do, your photos will mean so much more to you, and to others. So, practice patience and persistence in your work!

And, have fun! If you’re not having fun and loving what you do, why even bother? Make each outing a memorable one. Whether I’m dodging coyotes, crawling over boulders, or getting soaked by a rogue wave, I’m out there having fun and enjoying the moment, for a long as I possibly can. And, when I go back and look at my work, I can always recall the circumstances and the people that made each shot unique and an experience.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
You can support my work by connecting and following me on Instagram, or by visiting my website. Please feel free to contact me directly to purchase prints.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Thomas Flegel took my portrait shot.

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