Dan Dion: The Musical Image

Dan Dion, Artist / Photographer

Wise Sons Trout Salad
Bono photographed by Dan Dion

Shawn MacGowan, photographed by Dan Dion

Beck, photographed by Dan Dion

Photography of live performances are no easy feat. Even in the dawn of digital photography and high-res Smartphone cameras, capturing an unforgettable moment can be a split-second snap of the camera often ending up blurred with the moment missed. Many event photographers have honed the skill to capture these moments with years of practice and for the past 20 years, Dan Dion, one of San Francisco’s premiere performing art photographers has been the man behind the lens capturing world famous musicians at the historic Fillmore Auditorium.

You cannot even begin to imagine the collection of photographs Dion has in his arsenal. Thankfully, you can see it in person as he has opened his library of photos from the 2-decade span of his career at the Fillmore and other SF music venues at Madrone Art Bar.

What started as working in his girlfriend's father's studio as a high school senior portrait photographer turned into a career many would kill for. He’s photographed over 1000 musicians and also 1000 comedians backstage, in dressing rooms, and during live performances.

How does one start a career as a live event photographer? For Dion, it was simple. In 1994, when the historic Fillmore Auditorium reopened after being destroyed by the '89 quake – he approached the folks at the revived venue and offered to photograph the performers at the historic spot where legends the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Elton John, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, and countless others have performed. Dion always had impeccable timing. A trait you can witness in each act he’s photographed, capturing the moments that flashed at a blink of an eye.

One photograph stands out… a moment he captured of Shane MacGowan of the band Pogues, between songs with a beautiful blue wash; his faint image with the ambers from his cigarette (pictured right). “In a way a part of that in form, virtually everything that I am showing, I wanted the shots to be good on their own. I don’t want it to just be of a famous person. While I have plenty of shots of famous big names, I like the photos that have something more,” shares Dion. Like the Pogues photo and the ones of BB King, Emmylou Harris, U2, Depeche Mode, Dion captures what he calls a “Dionysian Moment”. All displays that same style, character and moment. “It is when they stop performing at you… when its not part of the “show” and just feeling the music, that’s the shot.”

Dan Dion also treasures backstage opportunities to shoot with the artists either before or after their performances. Iconic photos of great artists like Beck with his signature look, Rufus Wainwright waiting backstage, and John Lee Hooker behind the bar. One could consider Dion the luckiest man alive having been in the presence of music’s greatest. Rarely phased by the immense personalities he shoots and always professional, Dion shares that his craft comes before fanfare.

His other love, photographing standup comedians illustrates how he is playing with the celebrity image. “I like it when my rockstars look like comedians and my comedians look like rockstars.”

See the retrospective collection of photographs from shows you may have seen and own a part of history by purchasing Dion’s impressive body of work at Madrone Art Bar.

Thursday December 13, 2012

Madrone Art Bar
500 Divisadero Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

Divisadero Art Walk and Dan’s Birthday Celebration
Reception with the artist

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