Fotografo | Pictorialist | Raconteur



My photographs are inherently exploitative, a mélange of traditional and contemporary techniques based on the transformational principles of pictorialism.  In this way my images bridge the chasm between personal expression and collective observation, melding the shifting social and cultural attitudes of today.  Beginning with a single image captured from everyday landscapes, I fashion gateways through which the collateral damage inherent in multiple manipulated images from varying sources speaks to our growing fascination with abstract certainties.  Once combined, positioned and mined for expansive possibilities, I put forth the intrinsic value of manufactured and real where the imagination fosters a strong and lasting sense of connection to the volatility of an atmosphere otherwise indefinable.  I tell both simple and complex narratives that are at once available but unreliable, destined to reflect the instability of opinion and experience.


“At first glance Rory’s new work is obviously photographic yet perplexing as so many images and pieces intertwine to create reflections of experience.  Deep wounds and uplifting dances juxtapose yet flow with ease.”  Writes Bay Area California artist, blogger and multimedia adventurist Melissa K. Smith of the blog ‘From The Everywhere’.   “Photos of familiar places in San Francisco, the San Joaquin and Napa Valley blur the lines of reality as Rory blends colours and emotion with such vigor that you might think you just remembered that scene from your own dream just before waking this morning.  These real and imagined landscapes manifested from ecstasy and turmoil, draw one in for lengthy breaths and linger long after the return home.”  Read her full review “Piecings from a Pictorialist: The Art of Rory Dean” covering my gallery show at Berkeley’s Blow Salon (August-November 2014).


I am fascinated by our limitless relationship with self expression. What begins as a bridge between observations soon becomes an overwhelming temptation to leave the comfort of singular moments of familiarity to entertain the joy of happenstance.  As challenges in life have surfaced, preventing or delaying the creative process, the opportunity to be in this here and now is indicative of all our shared struggles and triumphs to coexist and comment personally about the everywhere.


My photos are part Blow Salon’s group Fall Art Show 2014, available from August through November in Berkeley, California.  I also designed the postcards and publicity materials.  Prints of varying sizes, framed and unframed are available.  Please contact me directly for further information.

Blow Salon –


Blow Salon Fall Art Show Reception August 23rd, 2014

blowsalonUimageBlow Salon provides professional, creative hair styling, cutting and coloring services which express the individuality and style of each of our clients. Our intimate salon atmosphere and attentive staff combine to create a comfortable setting for your hair styling experience. On our walls you will see art by local artists which rotates several times a year, providing the salon with creative flair and inspiration.   “We are a Barber Shop for Girls* * and Grrlz, Bois, Boys, Ladies, Queers, Guys, Men, Freaks, Kinksters and Weirdos! And we do every head of hair to look sexy on a pillow.”


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What Happened To The Reality In Reality Television?

The reality of reality television – stinks.


It might be a whole other kind of planet as to look at it – today’s televised wasteland of the unwholesomely uninspired and the morbidly mediocre, wet all over with the drowned browns and serialized grays of poorly manufactured dramas and regurgitated reality show porn.  Never mind truthfulness and forget any commitment to authenticity, the architects of this landscape of lies have honed their skills and refined their product to be consumed readily and as widely as possible.  They have tuned heavy-handed with pop-appeal schmaltz and skirted the gag reflex challenges of the purposefully carbon copied.  Driven by giddy producers, opportunistic executives and greedy advertisers in an industry that rewards youthful obsessions, the abandoned are processed by the tight-lipped as the indiscriminate viewer spikes their veins by remote control.  Mostly it is the sameness that annoys the greatest, sparse concepts wrapped in unoriginal charms by apathetics chasing ratings and pedaling not-so-good-for-you-mindlessness.  As cash registers ‘ding’ and media conglomerates posture for dominance, the addictive quality of shoddy forever hedges the bet between dollar-store tawdry and the need for immediate gratification in the short-term memory diseased viewer.  When content is chugged like cheap brew and the next generation of t.v. dinner aficionados look for their GMO heartburn solutions in every other ad,  celebrity mundanity and pop-appealists encourage idiot box prophets to stock the snack food aisles of our dwindling standards with Kool-Aid and golden sponge cakes oozing with the promise of creamy sustenance.  It is this planetary hold on the countless that tells us all that we need to know – there is no reality in reality television.  


Perhaps I’m an astronaut in the outer-outer space of contrariness and I haven’t a clue. Maybe, like that extraterrestrial space turd “Gravity” [My review here] I too am “..Shaped by the vacuous possibilities of manufactured tones and rendered landscapes, driven by the spatial consequences of effects-driven storytelling.. into accepting the fleeting superficiality of style over substance…”  What if the tugging sensation I feel every time I sit down to write about television is in fact the umbilical cord of my oxygen supply strained by the distance from my mother ship?  If the tether that is stretched out into darkness and keeping me from the depths of the universe, where at least ‘you’ can always hear yourself scream, is in fact damaged by the mediocrity of the silver screen, then by all means dried eye and ‘OH 2’ deprived I will certainly succumb to the bone mass wasting and muscle atrophy of unpopular opinions.  But first, to others so similarly distressed by the weightlessness of being perpetually incongruent with Hollywood and the industrialized complex of the entertainment bid’ness, let me say that we are united in our quest for more than this.  We are united by our dissatisfaction and as such we must answer the burning question that haunts our sensibilities.  Today we must ask the question that thrives unchecked in the flickering and stabilized hue of our televised content and finally, empowered however briefly wipe away the stain of drab t.v. for the answer that bares an old familiar acrid sting…

"Why? Because it's television!" - Rory Dean, Above The Line 

T.V beams at all hours in kitsch and caboodle-colored nonsense, landfill qualities serving mass appetites with renewable dial-a-flick patterns of situational violence and the overt gratuity of commoditized content.  It is online and in line, the all-the-time murderers of free thought and action where the sameness of despicable shows are wedged between the blathering of faces and the advertisements for products and services and things you don’t need, can’t afford or otherwise have no access to.  Maybe the most frightening thought is the enlightening that comes from tuning out and turning off, the chance you might rather appreciate autoasphyxia in measured doses of necessary forgetting than more of the same rehashed rehash.  Is it colorful odes of heavy-handed, machined aluminum Jello-mold t.v-tray gold for the now generation, same as the good old days, sure it is – but then what does that say about us when we can’t just walk away, turn it off, stop the madness? 

“How can you put on a meaningful drama or documentary that is adult, incisive, probing, when every fifteen minutes the proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper?” ~Rod Serling


ATLaddictedTVI suppose the cream always rises, floats on the oily top of mangled wanna-be-interesting, however it taints the less believing in the value of our cherished season finales.  Perhaps this means the opposite always sinks, settles as it were, replaced by the next great try to be good or at least not fail to start?  But if it does or doesn’t, if it didn’t or did would we still want it the way ‘they’ hope and pray that we do?  Would packaging it in cellophane hues of bankable and branded daytime, nighttime is anytime is the right time to make you something you don’t need, don’t really want, and ain’t gonna have any idea what to do with in five years be so bad?  Can you imagine the bargain bins at your favorite 5 acre warehouse department store, stuffed with series by the stack full in non-biodegradable clamshell and plastic boxes sitting there collecting dust waiting to be replaced by the crap television that came after it, two years ago going on forgettable forever. 

“The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.”  ~Ray Bradbury, The Golden Apples of the Sun


That’s not to say you are right or wrong for your indulgences or lack thereof.  You will surely find something to fill in the silences between the noise in your life.  Maybe the gold
nugs are tousled a bit more in the rough of twenty-four-seven programming than previously thought.  Maybe the occasional flashback to greater times or jump-forwards to lesser future imaginings is all that we need to keep on this path of hopeful pessimism?Surely we can all agree on the good stuff, like stories and shows that move us and reward us with thoughtful excursions and meaningful departures.  But how much of the rest of it do we have to wade through in order to convince us to keep trying?  Keep on keeping on, as they say, don’t give up on finding something to watch or ignore, to pass your valuable time because the master of this and the executive of that says so.  Who are these architects of our lives, these known and not-so known world-famous everyday Joe and Jane good ol’ crowd pleaser types that are waiting and banking on us to crown their achievements as impersonators of the truth?


It is this planetary hold on the countless that tells us all that we need to know – there is no reality in reality television.  We have no electron beam scanners or superheated charged gas combustion chambers that are capable of scanning, back-lighting or flickering even the remotest nuances of the feelings and sensations of the really-real real.  But this is less about our trouble discerning fact and fiction, from separating ourselves from the death stare connection with our televisions as it is about our ability to know when something has quite obviously become a toxin, in part or in whole to the fabric of our everyday balances. Maybe what we need is time and distance, a chance to survive a little longer on the swill and the swine at all hours of the day and night before we go cold turkey and never look back.  We can just keep on watching or cover our eyes to avoid the hold, transfixed by the fly paper roll colored screen of disquiet and then hurry off to the land of faraway prayers where all this jetsam and flotsam will go, go gently or otherwise necessarily into the ether.  If we stand a chance at all it is a beginning place of fascination from seeing too much or not enough of what matters the most, the seconds really that never fully add up but define the immeasurable inconsistencies of a framed and perfected television reality.

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Joan Rivers (2010) A Piece Of Work

I learned of the passing of Joan Rivers today and of course it brought back fond (and yes, not so fond) memories of her life, career and inextricable link with pop-culture Americana. She was always a present and constant source of creativity, of exploration and expression that cannot truly be valued in modern terms of success and failure. I was fortunate enough to see Joan live in the Castro district of San Francisco a few years ago (I reviewed that show here –> ) and while it was a joyous and special evening I couldn’t help but pause at times in astonishment over her fearlessness and brazen personality. Her work wasn’t for everyone and very often garnered as much praise and appreciation as negativity, even vitriol. What can we hope for in this life as artists but to elicit strong responses with our work, to reach out from and into the void for a little while and tickle the silences, nudge the incurable distances and ponder – did we leave a mark at all? Yes Joan, you left many, many marks and your uniqueness will not soon be repeated – if ever.

For Joan.

[Original Article Joan Rivers (2011 A Piece of Work documentary

Above the Line

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is part documentary part reality television turned in on itself as if to capture both the viewer and the subject in the quasi space that only truly exists where the past and the present merge – turning legend into lore and sometimes the other way around.  Let’s face it; Ms. Rivers has been working so long that most twenty-something’s only have the faintest of ideas who she really is, was, or came to be – red carpet commando, QVC celebrity saleswoman, and sadly victim of circumstance under the cosmetic-to-be-young knife.  This isn’t so much a movie about Joan Rivers the public spectacle, the woman with the loud, often abrasive opinions about everyone and everything – generally those who appeared, at least temporarily, superior only to fall on the sword of fame and fortune as so many have and continue to do so today. …

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Movie Review Blogging is about Momentum (2014)

ATLlineupmoviesTitleBarMomentum is the strength or force that something has when it is moving and the same can be said about routine.  Routine is about a steadfast desire to engage and master a process that is based on efficiency, simplicity and specificity.  I repeat this mantra every now and again before I set it aside, pause and get down to the process work of writing about movies.  It is work, by-the-way, work that I love, work that enriches my soul and drives me to keep going against every obstacle of reason, irrationality and contrariness.  That’s why I’m here after such a hiatus, such an unsatisfying distance.  I return with vigor in that old school British kind of vigor that was the television serial of the 1960’s.

theaterTrashATLThat is how one has to approach this or else it too will pass into the night, inevitably as much as unavoidably as all things with a story to be told.  From this beginning place we must have a clear line of sight to the requisite beginning, middle and end that informs as much as it takes us somewhere for a little while.  The goal of all stories (yes all stories you want or care to hear) is to take us somewhere and bring us back.  We want tactile experiences along the way, the crackle-snap of a Coney Island hot dog fresh first in the morning, the color of boots that don’t end with legs, the curve of an imperfect smile to earn approval or disrespect – all the stuff you want and need and have to have.

“The cumulative power of doing things the same way every day seems to be a way of saying to the mind: You’re going to be dreaming soon.” -Stephen King


The best stories instill in us a sensory connection with familiar and unknown experiences that don’t just end when the credits scroll – they send us back from whence we came with the possibility of new experiences manufactured from old.  Stories live and breathe in each of us, whether they are about an aging brute and busted father down on the road of glory that gets one last shot at the greatness of a personal relationship with his soul, or about a has-been and wanna-be again singer that got drunk and stayed that way too long hanging on the last time he felt alive before the golden rule of celebritydom cuts him off at the knees – the realization that it is better to have shined and lost the glow of popularity than to have burned out before your greatest personal shot at mediocrity.

ATL triptych2014

Take films like “The Wrestler“, “Crazy Heart” and “Warrior” – they put everything into the physical world of the stories so that these very specific characters are approachable and familiar, people like us or people we know or knew – Then take another kind of character driven film like “Rampart“.  While they don’t have similar goals it is obvious how they differ by the way that they end.  These first films I listed succeed in the ways that “Rampart” fails.  “Rampart” leaves us busted and bruised and unrewarded for having invested in the journey and consequently disappointed. It’s not about idealism or even happy endings but an ending that fits the mood and tone of the story and gives us a place to land and take off from. “Rampart” says I came I saw and I have but one single solitary end up ahead. You simply cannot end a film with but a single choice for your character. You can and it happens all the time but it’s miserable and short-sighted and uninspired.  This leads us to the film “I Melt With You” that I reviewed in March of 2013.

What I said then about “I Melt With You“…

“I Melt With You” warmly invites you in like an old friend, hangs on the shoulders of nostalgia and the togetherness of shared photo album remembering for a weekend of youthful abandon…

Like “Rampart” before it, and all heavy, inconsolable human tragedies throughout the history of cinema, “I Melt With You” stammers far too long on the bleak remains of damaged days where people with nothing to gain and everything to lose very often meet or exceed our need to watch misery played out in 90 minute intervals of truth and consequences.  This is not to say such films fail because they are heavy, only that they cannot tread the airy waters of hopefulness that carry each of us through the darkest, deepest oceans of our lives.  My original March 2013 review continues…

…Three days invariably becomes the tomorrow of hell’s high waters where excess begins and ends with a cornucopia of drugs, alcohol and bare bottoms cleansed by ocean waves and pit fires that ebb away the façade of grown ups masking lost boys that never survived their past…

Why do we watch films at all if not to escape, sometimes gingerly, almost all together brazenly into places familiar and not-so familiar to our own for minutes if not hours at a time of peaceful disinterest? Are we not consumed with the validating principle of our own misery as seen through the misery of others – or perhaps it is best thought of in slices at a time of confrontation, the way we live vicariously through close contact sports with the lives of others similarly distressed or otherwise purposefully impressed with pride, prejudice and privilege?  But what of the terrible toll such encounters takes on the soul, the weight of experience pressed down upon already weakened shoulders and brows, the consequences of being so very near the end of lives almost too close to our own to bear?  Such is the rub of true artistic merit, that which penetrates us as we attempt to penetrate it, peeling back the layers of the seen as the objects of our lives gaze disparaging upon us, silently judging us for our unwillingness to entertain change.

…Leading your audience into the bleak hells of our past with no way out can pretty much guarantee negative reviews.  And you can’t blame anyone…


[On Set of Once Beautiful Past, written/directed by Rory Dean]

Life is a multi-colored, many splendid thing with barbs and jagged edges that reward and wound without remorse or explanation. Why not portray such universal possibility in a film that strives for so much verisimilitude?  If the goal is to simply dash hope to pieces with an end that doesn’t end or worse – an end that severs all connections with the audience, then when the screen fades to black and credits scroll to thunderous disappointment shouldn’t the people who only want to get out of there and not talk about what they just regretted sitting through matter to the filmmakers?  To someone?

Certainly there are times in this life and the next when we hear the bullet and sometimes, despite our best intentions we act as though we don’t.  But what of the experience, the lasting echoes that return again and again to fuel our marked expectation of something more than this?  If our gain is the knowledge that we deserve to know the consequences of why it went off then certainly we are owed an explanation or a contrary justification for what bleak territory we are left with in an empty, unrequited denouement.

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Gravity (2013)

“What is exhilarating in bad taste is the aristocratic pleasure of giving offense.” ~ Charles Baudelaire.


Alfonso Cuaron’s CGI space drama “Gravity” is nothing if not abundantly well liked, heaped upon with gushing adoration despite a myriad of insufferable shortcomings.  Shaped by the vacuous possibilities of manufactured tones and rendered landscapes, driven by the spatial consequences of effects-driven storytelling, the film has bamboozled audiences and critics into accepting the fleeting superficiality of style over substance.

atlTicketMissItv1Perhaps when all is said and done you do have to experience “Gravity” for yourself – though the same could be said of most films – Uwe Boll’s films notwithstanding.  If you’re interested in broad stroke characters and action sequences propelled by nauseating aesthetics, veteran actors at a loss for subtlety and millions of dollars of computer makeup, then this film might prove at least a passing fancy.  Personally the film meanders on kitschy “look at me-ness” and I can no more recommend “Gravity” than other concept films gone astray – films that I’ve reviewed like “Contagion“, “Tree Of Life” and “Inception” which all forget the most basic principles of cinematic storytelling – namely that story, character development and a truthful proximity to genuine emotional resonance is not what you see but what you feel.  If you’ve already seen it then most likely you’ve already begun to forget just what it was that you found so enjoyable.  At a modest 91 minute run time we can at least thank someone for ending the ride sooner than later – though in all practicality situational conflict is the one constant that once removed or diminished renders plot and everything shackled to it to a predictable and moot conclusion.

Heralded as a masterpiece of visual acuity, so stunning the perspective and plotting of our universal fears of the cold, quiet of space, the death-defying theatrics of astronauts struggling to get back home after a catastrophe primes “Gravity” for success yet ultimately hamstrings it as purely airy; an overworked assemblage of neat sequences better suited to a 10 minute music video.  However charmed the viewer with the opulent excessiveness of another Hollywood filmmaker running on prior successes (See my review of Cuaron’s vastly superior “Children Of Men”), the production of such disposable entertainment fills a niche even as it hearkens the old adage “Here today, gone tomorrow.”  Such are the inherent dangers of any 91 minute idea strung together by death and destruction in space or otherwise where the unavoidable distance imposed by bulky space suits and intercoms deadens the thrills and rewards.  At some point early on we simply cannot connect in an emotionally truthful way to these cardboard caricatures and matchstick back stories. Coupled with the inaccessible flailing scenarios of disintegrated space ships and asteroids that kill by nicks and piercing, “Gravity” looks good while straining to convey millimeters at a time of truthfulness under the most improbable of imaginary circumstances.

gravityFarAwayATL2014If “Gravity” will be praised down the road it will be for highlighting the magnanimous potential for special effects to puff up IMAX sales and fill more boardrooms with superfluous pitches for movies that won’t stand the test of time.  There is no denying the technological splendor of the film, nor the mastery involved in action sequences and overall accomplishment in editing.  Blah blah blah.  But what about every single thing else?  So entertain us with some solitary aspect of the rich techniques of the movie making process and we just roll over and lap it up?  Don’t believe the hype or the glowing reviews and award show gold because the praise and adulation for “Gravity” is a one trick pony on a cheap greeting card heading for our landfills as the forgettable pastures of the next good-looking film – sans substance – gears up for the metroplex.

gravity_altfilmPosterATL2014Much like the stuffed shirt effect after a rich, carbohydrate laden meal, “Gravity” is lost almost immediately upon the exhalation of a good belch. The story is, after all, as ludicrous as it is anti-cinematic, riddled with choppy dialogue that drifts nearly as much as the detached emotional undertone that reduces the characters to puffy disinterest and glaring artifice.  We are talking about a genre film of epic construction, three years in the making, but all the hanging green screens and the laborious post production whiz-bammery cannot for the effort make the $10 popcorn work the price of admission.  Take a step back and consider “Gravity” a perfect frame for aging actors with a hard time hitting their marks and emoting on queue – the same for a director who leaves us with a resounding sense of disappointment.

“The brave, impetuous heart yields everywhere to the subtle, contriving head.” ~Sage writer, British poet & cultural critic Mathew Arnold.


The conveyor belt quantities of action and limitless fascination with spaceness machined by Cuaron and his lensesmith Emmanuel Lubezki for “Gravity” instills in the viewer an unshakable uneasy for all the wrong reasons.  “Gravity” is not a roller coaster ride and therefore will not improve with repeat experiences.  Even after a single screening one is filled with the dread that comes on strong and inevitably falls hard between bouts of nonsensical banter and the deafening silence of acting.  Despite the overwhelming positivism, both in reviews and ratings and award show gold, “Gravity” suffers from the same nausea ad infinitum that often relegates it to little more than a snappily dressed carny barker inviting the wanderer to navigate the tent poles of what will become a scattered visit to theater of the absurd.

Posted in Movie I've Seen, Movie Makers & Shakers, Movies You Should or Should Not See, My Review of Their Review:, On DVD, Online, philosophy and film, Rants & Raves | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments