Photographer Dennis Kendal Hall
speaks with Mark Sean Orr

When and where were you born and were you always interested in art and photography? Was
anyone else in your family artistic and what was your childhood like in general?

    I was born on June 16, 1944 in San Jose, California.  I seemed to make good images with my Ansco
camera when I was a child and teen-ager.  My Father, who was at war when I was born, returned from
World War II, shell-shocked and schizophrenic.  He spent most of his life in and out of Veteran
Hospitals.  He was very intelligent and creative.  Toward the end of his life we finally became friends.  
Jerry Hall divorced Ann E. Hall when I was seven years old.  My Mother had a nervous breakdown and
shock treatment was administered.  She was never the same.  Since there was no normalcy at home, I
grew up fast.  Whatever my Mother did, she did well.  My Mother was supportive in her fashion.  My Father
was very critical regarding everything that I attempted.  In general, my childhood was rather horrific but I
was rebellious.  I joined a Mexican street gang, spending as little time as possible at home.

You've stated that you started taking photographs in 1966. How old were you at that time and what
drew you to photography. What were some of your first photographs taken of and why?

I was twenty-two years old when I decided to make creative photographic images. I found it compatible
with my rapid mental process.  My first images were of trees and tree bark studies.  I had to start
somewhere so I chose to make images of trees for my first course at the San Francisco State College
Extension Center on Powell Street.  My first experiences photographing were in Buena Vista Park, near
the Haight/Ashbury in San Francisco.  In a short time I gravitated towards making images of individuals.  I
consider myself a People Person.

What type of camera(s) do you use. Do you have a preference between film and digital and what
advantages do you think each medium has?  

In the past I have used medium format cameras to make portraits of people.  I have used the Bronica,
Rolleiflex SL66 and the Rolleiflex Twin Lens cameras. I now utilize 35MM SLR and the Rolleiflex Twin
Lens cameras.  Although I have used digital cameras, I do not own one.  The instant gratification of the
Digital Age does not impress me.  The current digital cameras are too easy.  I appreciate the challenge
and mystery in creating and developing an image.  Imogen Cunningham referred to 35 MM cameras as
'idiot boxes.'  I just cannot imagine what she would say about today's cameras!   Although I first used
computers for creative expression in 1987 and still do,  I prefer and enjoy all of the meditative steps
associated with the negative process.  It is still Magic!

Your portrait shots are do you choose your subjects? Are these people that you
know or just random people (referring to the San Francisco photos in particular) or is it a mix of both?

Choosing individuals to make portraits is haphazard and sometimes very difficult.  Since I have never
charged a fee to make portraits might have had a great influence on their results.  The subjects are
individuals that I befriended or strangers that were accessible at the time.  I select individuals that look
intelligent or have something in their face and presence that I wish to capture.  I feel that People who ask
me to make a portrait can be very difficult especially if they have nothing to say or are insecure within
themselves!   I enjoy making portraits of individuals who know who they are.  Later, in Imogen
Cunningham's life, she stated that she only use people as ectoplasm to fill her photographic-frame!

I love the photograph you took of comedian Paula Poundstone. How did that come about and what
was it like? Do you have conversations and get to know your subjects?

At a street fair on Haight Street, I walked up to Paula Poundstone and asked if I could make her portrait.  
She said yes.  Paula appeared to be a real person and I would have enjoyed chatting with her.  Since
she was a featured part of the event we only exchanged smiles as I made the images.  I thanked her.  I
see or feel no difference in photographing celebrated individuals from others.  We are all Human Beings.

In the early 1970's you worked with famous photographer Imogen Cunningham. It's fascinating to me
that she was born in the 19th century (1883) and worked up until her death in 1976. She had an
amazing career working with others in the profession like Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Minor
White. Cunningham was also a co-founder of the photography group f/64, the group of talented
photographers created to define photography as an art form by a simple and direct presentation
through purely photographic methods. What was that relationship like? Was it intimidating taking
photos of Cunningham and what did you learn from her about

I first met Imogen Cunningham at the University of California Extension in San Francisco.  I was
attending my second photography class given my Fred Padula.  For an exhibit of our best images Fred
Padula asked Imogen to choose the the photographs for the exhibit that was to subsequently hung in the
hallways of the school.  Each student presented six photographs illustrating their best work.  Imogen
approached my six images and chose all of them. Later on, she ended up taking only three of the
images stating ' I have to be fair.'  About a year passed .  One day I met her on Castro Street in San
Francisco with Ruth Azawa, the sculptor.  I related our first meeting the year before.  We chatted and she
gave me her card and asked that I call her.  A few days later, I did.  I visited Imogen several times and we
discussed everything.  We became friends and then I became her adviser.  Our friendship was 'Harold
and Maud' ish!  'Harold and Maude' is an early 1970's film by Hal Ashby featuring Ruth Gordon and Bud
Cort. The first time I asked if I could make a portrait of her I was intimidated to the point of under-
exposing the negatives two or three stops!  My exposures of Imogen improved over the years.  I did not
have any grandparents.  Imogen was the perfect grand-mother!  I learned many intangibles from
Imogen.  She always championed me which was sometimes embarrassing.  Imogen always listened to
my advice, stating 'you are dead right' on many occasions.  

Many of your photos were taken in the 1970's in the Haight Ashbury, San Francisco area. Were you a
part of that scene and what was that like? Any interesting stories from that time period and that
area? Can you tell us about some of the people and places you photographed in The Haight?

Although I made many portraits of hippie types, I never actually made photographs in the Haight/Ashbury
District.     I really was not accepted by the so-called Hippie Movement.  Reasons being my hair was not
long enough and I didn't smell natural enough!  I tend to avoid movements.  I was employed at the United
States Post Office as a window clerk.

What other areas of the world have you been to and photographed? Do you have a favorite place and
a favorite subject?

I have traveled to London, Paris, Rome, Milan, Venice, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Copenhagen.  I believe
that I have made my most expressive  and telling images on my home terrain.  Europe is like a picture
post card.

My two favorite photos of yours are the elderly couple in the park and the brothers looking out the
truck window. How did those shots come about and are they favorites of yours? To doesn't get
any better than those two photos.....ever.

The image of the elderly couple in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park:   The images
resulted  while using a  borrowed 35MM camera and occurred by being there at the time it was
happening.  It tells a story.  Regarding the brothers peering out of the rear window of an automobile:  I
had recently viewed 'Isadora,' a film by Karl Reis and there was a scene of Isadora Duncan's angelic
children waving good-bye to her through the back window of their chauffeured automobile.  Shortly after
the children plunged through a bridge and drowned in Seine River.  The images in the film were powerful
and I certainly remember them.

Where has your work been exhibited and what types of projects have you done involving

After being Imogen Cunningham's assistant during her 'famous period,' I realized that I was not seriously
interest in the fame game.  That decision set me free.   I did what I wanted to do.  I have always
considered myself an amateur rather then a professional photographer.  I still am in love with
photography.  I have participated in several exhibits.  My first exhibit was requested from me in 1968 at
the Coffee Cantata on Union Street in San Francisco.  It consisted mainly of trees as subject matter.  I
have participated in many college class exhibits.  I have produced four photographic exhibits:  'Execusion
At American Flats' in 1990.  It took place in Storey County, Nevada two and fifty miles from San Jose,
California .  'Electric Images' with Eileen McGarvey was at the DeAnza student gallery in Cupertino,
California and featured cibachromes of early digital images.  'Celebrating Four Decades In Photography'
at the Leger Gallery in Davenport, Iowa in 2007.  The video can be viewed on Ovation TV under FINEINK
under My Vidoes.  'Appropiations...then some'  occurred in 2009.  Some of the images can be viewed on
Ovation TV under FINEINK. under My Photographs, currently on page forty-seven.

Favorite photographer?
I admire two photographers:  Frederick H. Evens and Edward Weston for their clarity and purity.

Are you working on any projects now?  Still taking photos...and how often?

I have several projects in gestating.  Everyone tell me that I have had an interesting Life and I should
write about it. There is so much gossip out there already.  I have always wanted to write a factual and
truthful book/play regarding my relationship of assistant to a master.  For years I have been looking for a
collaborator/writer/musician to assist me in crating a musical play on Imogen Cunningham's life in
photography.  I believe the history of the medium must be remembered accurately and honestly.  If
anyone is interested, please contact DKH at

What advice would you give to young photographers today who are just starting their journey?

In your final product, the question that should be asked by all who attempt to create visual images is:  Is
the image effective?   Is it what you really want to state?  I have always considered myself a scientist with
a camera.  I am open to the accidental and the term ' What If...' in making photographic images.  I never
idolize or imitate others.  I do not censor myself or others.  I find it takes years to understand and become
enlightened with some of the photographs I have created in the distant past.  All image makers must
have a knowledge of the history of the photographic medium.  One must be passionate and curious in
their endeavors.  Several beginning photographers who have exposed a few rolls of digital or negative
images often ask me to see their work.  The first questions they ask are how big should I make them
and how much should I charge?  Although Andy Warhol stated Art is whatever you can get away with, I
usually reply to their queries with I do not see anything in your images to blow up or sell.

One word that describes your photography?


In Dennis Kendal Hall's would you like to see your life and career summed up in one

I have always been a conundrum.  People will write what they will write.  I would like to think some of my
images will be preserved.  If I chose to sum up my Life and Career I would prefer use an image not a
paragraph.  Imogen Cunningham created in 1972.  It is untitled.  The photograph is a 4" X 5" black and
white Polaroid P/N print.  It consists of me lying across two tables on my back eyes gazing upwards.  It
was based on a dream I had that I related to Imogen.  I suppose the image will never be published
because it was my idea and not hers.  Imogen Cunningham always believed  giving credit to other
people's ideas expressed in images.

Where can people see your work?

At my place of residence.  For the virtual experience:  or do a
web search under Dennis Kendal Hall.

Anything you'd like to add?

Not quite!

Why do you show your photographs under the term FINEINK?

In 1978, I coined the word FINE INK. to represent a lithographic printing business.  About eight years
ago, I coined the word ART MOUTH which is going to be a gallery in the large attic at my residence in
Rock Island, Illinois.
*Update June 5, 2017 FINEINK is no longer used by Dennis.

    Thank you Dennis  for doing this interview for my website. I really appreciate it. I look forward to
    seeing more of your work! Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Mark Orr
    Interview with Dennis Kendal Hall
    December 14, 2010 - January 5, 2011®

    Permissions for photos on this page given by Dennis Kendal Hall and the Imogen Cunningham
All photographs on this page used by permission of Dennis Kendal Hall.
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transmitted, displayed or published without written permission from Collectors World Online.  ®2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013-2014-2015-2016
Mark Sean Orr®
c. 1972 Dennis Kendal Hall
c.1993 Dennis Kendal Hall
Imogen Cunningham, San
c. 1972  Dennis Kendal Hall
In MOMA, NYC Collection
Paula Poundstone, San Francisco
c. 1990  Dennis Kendal Hall
c.1968 Dennis Kendal Hall
Paula Poundstone, San Francisco
c. 1990  Dennis Kendal Hall
Dennis' Dream, San Francisco, 1972
Imogen Cunningham Trust
Dennis Kendal Hall
Brothers, San Francisco
c. 1972 Dennis Kendal Hall
Interview with Photographer Dennis Kendal Hall
by Mark Sean Orr - January 5, 2011
Wow..what a wonderful experience!!! I love the photo 'Brothers'1973.
~Rebecca Broad
DKH's work has so much feeling to it. Great interview Mark!
~Elsa Marie Santoro
Fascinating interview, thank you Mark, thank you Dennis.
~Bob Batchelor
Congratulations to you both on a very fine interview. I enjoyed it and have a great deal
of respect for you two's works.
Marion L. Brown
Excellent again.  Your skill as an interviewer is matched by your excellent choice of
~Ed Pearson
Mark so pleased you posted this. Imogen Cunningham and Julia Margaret Cameron
are my two favourite photographers.
~Max Craig
Dennis is a wonderful photographer who had a fascinating life.You should write that
book Mark. Great interview!
~Pam Choate