When Dean Dorman almost stepped on Jesus in a small cemetery in Stuckange, France, he didn't realize it would become a turning point in his photography. He noticed the broken clay Jesus on the ground, but didn't experience a religious epiphany. Instead, his thoughts turned to, "Is this what it's become?" What he calls the "Broken Jesus" collection became one of Dorman's most controversial collections, and the start of a photography career.
The "Broken Jesus" photographs show different statues of Jesus that are missing arms, legs, or parts of his face. Because this collection of photos features broken Jesus, it has become Dorman's most controversial collection. "Some of my friends refuse to print them for me because they are Christian, and found them offensive," Dorman says. When Dorman displayed his artwork at the Bloomsburg Art Fair in August, some spectators put down a Broken Jesus photo in disgust. However, one of Dorman's friends, a priest who married Dorman and his wife, asked for the entire collection to hang in his church in Liberty, Pa. "You don't have to be Christian in this country to have Jesus in your life," Dorman says. "People have opinions, and it provokes all sorts of reactions."
When Dorman first photographed the Broken Jesus, he was an Army corporal. He won't say why he joined the Army. "I need to change my life about every five to six years," Dorman says, "and the Army happened to be the drastically left turn." While in the Army, Dorman spent three years in Germany, and visited the surrounding countries. "There was so much I had seen over there that words just really couldn't capture," Dorman says. Photography became a catharsis for him, he says. It was when he first realized he viewed things differently. "You can't really argue about a picture," he says. Dorman's photography hobby became a passion. Once he left the army, Dorman moved to Selinsgrove, Pa.
Dorman became more serious about his photography when he met Andrea Dorman, who would become his wife. She had spent several years as a professional model, and had helped him understand what it was like on the other side of the camera. "She could tell me from that side of the lens what to think, and what was going on," Dorman says. But what pushed Dorman to do more with the photography was her encouragement. "She really believed in me a lot more than I did," Dorman says, noting, "she encouraged me and always had me pushing the envelope."
Dorman isn't a full time photographer; he is an assistance administrator at the Bloomsburg Hospital. "You do things you have to do, and do things you love," he says. His wife warmly adds, "Passion doesn't pay everything." Dorman's priority is to get into the art community, and to become more public. Although he doesn't turn away opportunities, he prefers to follow his own visions in his photography. "We're in a period where we're trying to re-envision what we're doing;" Dorman says of his future plans, "Where we're going to go is wherever my art is going to go." Without a studio, Dorman bases his photography business on his website, Die Strafbar, poor German grammar for "the punishable . . . ," an incomplete thought meant to be finished in different ways.
Dorman is driven to make his photography different. He doesn't produce "hotel art." Instead of displaying a beautiful photograph hanging in a hotel lobby, Dorman says he would rather provoke an emotional reaction and connection with his photographs. His goal is to evoke "unexpected emotions" from his audience. He believes these unexpected emotions are the hallmark of any good art, and what provokes discussion between viewers. "I'm not telling people what to see," he says. He wants his audience to interpret the photograph for themselves.
Dorman also doesn't take wedding pictures or senior pictures. When it comes to portraits, he is selective about who to photograph. It comes from having similar ideas of what Dorman wants out of the photograph, and what the family wants out of the photograph. "It's nice to not have conflicting ideas" Dorman's wife says. If Dorman uses a model, the model is always a part of the creative process. "The creative process is something that has to come from all directions," Dorman says. The portraiture becomes a balanced project and everyone is involved to produce the end result. "I don't think an artist can necessarily work isolated," Dorman says, "but it's a thin line to tiptoe across," combining what Dorman wants in the photo and what customer wants.
Dorman never knew that when he photographed the first Broken Jesus it would be the first steps into a new career. "In a good or bad way, Jesus is everywhere," Dorman says. But his talent is seen in his other photographs of architecture, cars, and portraitures. What started as a hobby for Dorman grew into a passion, and a new opportunity for expression.