Warren County Historical Society Presents …

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September 1, 2014

 

Richard Dean, Adirondack Photographer

 

The following article appeared in The Chronicle’s ENTERPRISE magazine, published in the autumn of 2001.  Written by Cathy DeDe, we thought it would be worthwhile to rerun the article now with updated information.  One could easily make the case that Richard Dean was one of the area’s most influential photographers of the past 50 years, especially when it comes to the travel and tourism industry in Warren County and the Adirondacks.  Chances are that, even today, if one purchases a postcard celebrating the Adirondacks, Lake George, or any of the other lakes in northern New York State, Richard Dean took the original photo.  The following article, copyrighted to ‘The Glens Falls Chronicle,’ is reprinted here with permission from Cathy DeDe and ‘The Chronicle.’

Dean ADK 

He’s the ‘Dean’ of GF photographers

Richard K. Dean’s thriving 55-year photo business

Photographer Richard K. Dean was already in business for almost 30 years when the 1980 Winter Olympics rolled into Lake Placid.

A winning shot – One of Richard K. Dean’s best-selling postcards, this view was captured in 1955. Mr. Dean vividly remembers taking the photograph.

A winning shot – One of Richard K. Dean’s best-selling postcards, this view was captured in 1955. Mr. Dean vividly remembers taking the photograph.

With money put up by his printer, Mr. Dean negotiated an exclusive franchise to produce official Olympic postcards.  He shot most of the scenes for the cards at the 1979 World Cup games at Lake Placid.

“We sold a total of 980,250 of these cards with the official Olympic logo from 1979 to 1981,” said Mr. Dean.  “Thereafter we have reprinted some cards for sale without the logo.” He adds, “During the games we had to make deliveries to stores at night, as the area was blocked during the days.”

Moreover, says Mr. Dean, the Olympic connection established a good foothold for future business:  “It got us in solid in Lake Placid.”

Olympics 001

A winning shot – One of Richard K. Dean’s best-selling postcards, this view was captured in 1955.  Mr. Dean vividly remembers taking the photograph.

Mr. Dean’s son-in-law, Everett Bowie, the company’s sales associate says that Lake Placid, a summer mainstay, now “holds the business up in winter.”

Mr. Dean has been photographing the Adirondacks and Lake George region for nearly 55 years.  His Dean Color Photography sells some 650,000 postcards a year, said Wendy Dean Chitty, his office manager and youngest daughter.  They estimate that they’ve sold 25 million postcards since they began.

The postcards make up about 75 percent of the company’s business, Mrs. Chitty said.  The rest comes from custom brochures and postcards for tourist attractions, note cards, placemats, mouse pads and scenic photographs.

Although Mr. Dean’s gentlemanly demeanor is far from cutthroat, he’s pretty much got the lock on the postcard business in this region.  Any postcard you see hereabouts – from Saratoga to Plattsburgh, Lake Placid, Old Forge, Lake Champlain and Lake George – is likely a Dean product.

Mr. Dean says that’s because “no one else is going to go to the trouble of getting the pictures and carrying the inventory  It’s terrific how many cards we’ve got here – at least a million.”

There are items that retail for an average of 45 cents each – though Mr. Dean says, “When we started out a long, long time ago, they were six for a quarter.”

There are items that retail for an average of 45 cents each – though Mr. Dean says, “When we started out a long, long time ago, they were six for a quarter.”

The business has operated for all these years from the back rooms of Mr. Dean’s home at 1 Philo Street, a little dead-end street near Crandall Park in Glens Falls.  His warehouse is in the basement.

Started with a box camera Mr. Dean got interested in photography when he was a Glens Falls High School senior and was laid up with a dangerous case of sinusitis. He was given a box camera to pass the time.

Started with a box camera
Mr. Dean got interested in photography when he was a Glens Falls High School senior and was laid up with a dangerous case of sinusitis. He was given a box camera to pass the time.

After he graduated from Glens Falls in 1931, Mr. Dean attended Rochester Institute of Technology in the College of Photography.  He worked for almost 15 years for Defender Co. in Rochester as a film tester and color printer.

He came back to Glens Falls to open Dean’s Distinctive Photography in 1949.  The best thing about having his own business, he says, “is never having to worry about being discharged.”  He said, too, he’s enjoyed the friendships and business relationships he has with many of his customers.

He published his first full color brochure for the Lake George resort Alpine Village in 1950.  “I saw a need that the motels and resorts had for good, color brochures.”

“We get into a lot of different things in this pictorial business,“ Mr. Dean said, including placemats, calendars, custom postcards for resorts.  “People like a souvenir of their second home.”  He notes that, with booming amateur photography, he sells fewer sets of postcards and more singles.  “People don’t buy quantities.”

Aerial photography a specialty

Mr. Dean has made aerial photography something of a specialty.  His first aerial shot was taken years ago.  “My father had a drug store in Warrensburg.  There was a fellow with an open plane taking people up from the fairgrounds.  I went up with the camera and sold a picture I took to a postcard firm, for about $10 I guess.”  Soon after, he was publishing his own postcards.

The Lake George scene (here)…is one of his classics, and a perennial best seller, Mr. Dean said.  He recalls taking the photo around 1955, on an outing with his daughter Shirley.

“We started out at 6 in the morning from Glens Falls.  We were going to go to Whiteface.  Lake George looked so pretty, all steamed up with fog.  We kept going until we came to this place.  The fog was just lifting off the lake, so we called the card “Morning Mist.”

Mr. Dean adds that the view cannot be reproduced.  He’s been back and the tree has grown into a different position.

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At 88, still going strong

Mr. Dean, who is 88 years old (in 2001), still goes to great lengths for his work. He continues to take aerial photographs and more.

He tells with pleasure of taking a photograph of the new dam beneath the South Glens Falls bridge on Route 9 not long ago.  To get a clear view, Mr. Dean climbed onto the chain link fence on the bridge.  It didn’t take long for an alarmed observer to call for help.

“A couple of police cars came by, and a reporter.  They thought I was going to jump,” he laughs.

He spent this fall (2001) taking foliage shots every day, he says.  “there’s not much to photograph now,” he adds, “until we get snow.”  He recently took photographs of Whitehall’s new canal park, where he said he greatly admires the village’s long granite Veterans Memorial Wall.  “I shot new aerials of the village, canal park and locks last summer for a tentative new postcard,” he says.

He said he decides what images to capture by considering the features of each area.  “In Saratoga Springs, for example, we have cards showing the springs, Broadway, parks, museums and track.  The key determination is what is interesting to the public and most helpful for upgrading the area.”

He is proud o his series of panoramic Adirondack views with quotations from environmentalists including John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt on the front of each card.

“They get a lot of comment,” he says of that series.

Influenced Crandall Park upgrades

Mr. Dean’s own preservationist beliefs are served by his photography, too.  He says, “I took photographs of Crandall Park’s degraded condition and gave a set to Bud Taylor [councilman of the Third Ward in Glens Falls], who showed them to the city.  Soon after, a contractor volunteered to dredge the ponds.  This has resulted in the city upgrading the park, adding a new fence and fountain.”

Asked whether he ever thinks about retiring, Mr. Dean says, “No.  Only slowing down.”  There doesn’t seem to be much of that happening though.

For the 2013 Warren County Bicentennial celebration, a commemorative postcard was issued by the Citizen’s Advisory Committee which featured 10 photographs by Richard Dean.  Copies of this postcard are available from the Warren County Historical Society at 195 Sunnyside Road, Queensbury, NY  12804. (518-798-6292)

 Dean ADK.3

Update for this reprinting:

Richard Dean passed away in February of 2008.  He is buried in Pine View Cemetery.  His business, Dean Color Photo, which for years operated out of his house on Philo Street in Glens Falls, is still active and operated by his daughter and son-in-law in Lewis, New York.   Dean Color, PO Box 71, Lewis, New York  12950. (ddean@capital.net).

Color photos courtesy of Dean Color.  Black and white photos courtesy of The Chronicle.  Special thanks to Cathy DeDe and The Chronicle for permission to reprint this article as it appeared in 2001 and Wendy Chitty from Dean Color for photographs.

Warren County Historical Society has a selection of placemats for sale with Richard Dean’s photographs of Lake George, the Adirondacks, and Lake Placid.  There are also copies of the Bicentennial postcard available.  Contact the Society for more information (743-0734 or by email at mail@warrencountyhistoricalsociety.org).

© September 1  2014, Warren County Historical Society.

 

Warren County Historical Society // 50 Gurney Lane // Queensbury, NY 12804 // (518) 743-0734

 

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