In college at the University of Maryland, Dennis Drenner was studying to be a biologist when he began taking pictures for the student newspaper and fell in love with photography. Fascinated as he was by the workings of the natural world, Dennis found the observation of our own peculiar species even more compelling. By graduation, he had decided to trade in his microscope for a camera lens.
Twenty years later, Dennis has now photographed extensively around the United States and all over the world, always with the scientist's habit of looking for the basic truths under the surface of things, the common human stories that lie beneath our external differences.
Dennis' work has won awards in the national Pictures of the Year competition, three Maryland State Arts Council Grants, an Arthur Burns Fellowship to work at the German magazine Stern, and a Fulbright Fellowship to photograph in Pakistan. His clients include such publications as the Washington Post, New York Times, US News and World Report, The Sunday Times (London), and Der Spiegel (Germany).
Over the past five years Dennis has developed a passion for Latin America, has traveled extensively in the region and speaks fluent Spanish.
Early on in my career, two of my newspaper colleagues asked me to photograph their weddings one summer. Imagining myself a rugged, world-traveling photo-stud, I was of course appalled. “I don’t do weddings! I don’t shoot those cheesy, staged photos! I’m not going to spend hours arranging bridesmaids!” They calmly told me that they didn’t want me to do that either. “Just take your own pictures. We like your pictures.” they said. And I was flattered, and I relented, and the rest is history.
What I quickly learned is that weddings have everything photojournalists love to shoot - emotion, pageantry, drama - all wrapped up in a neat eight-hour package with an open bar. I also learned that there are hordes of people in the world who also want my sort of pictures, candid photographs that reflect their own particular personalities and relationships rather than Martha Stewart’s idea of how things should be.
The other thing we photojournalists love is to make a difference with our photographs, to illuminate, to educate, to make people see through our eyes. And while my wedding photos are seen by far fewer people than my work published in the Washington Post for example, the effects are far deeper and longer lasting. And so is my satisfaction when a bride tells me my photos made her hands shake with emotion, or a groom says that I took the best picture of his grandfather he has ever seen, or when I run into a couple five years after the wedding and learn that photos I have nearly forgotten remain fresh and powerful in their minds and in their lives.