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Random Thoughts: A Community Conversation with Dennis Minner Jr.

Dennis Minner Jr.

Dennis Minner Jr., at the Winter Classic in 2016, reacting to seeing an interview with him playing on the scoreboard. [Dennis Minner Jr. photo]

This week, Mid Rivers Newsmagazine talks with O’Fallon resident Dennis Minner Jr., who has been a professional photographer for 10 years, but who says he feels like he was born with a camera in his hands. His artwork is “personal” and haunting. Many of his photos are shot in abandoned buildings – places most people would never want to enter. Inside, he says he finds beauty, hope and proof of second chances. His art will be showcased at the Saint Louis Art Fair in Clayton Sept. 7-9. 

What are some misconceptions about your job?

That anyone with a camera can be a photographer or that the skill is all done within the camera. Just today I had a guy come over and ask me what type of camera I use … that’s like asking professional golfers what type of clubs they use. Just because they use a certain type of club doesn’t mean that if you go get those clubs, you’ll automatically become that type of golfer. 


Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?

That is so tough because I’ve been in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds … how about my favorite place? It’s an abandoned old school in upstate New York. That place was just incredible. Just pulling up to the building on the outside, it looked like something out of a horror movie, just the way it was falling apart and dilapidated. Once inside, just seeing how beautiful the bright colors were in each room – the chairs and beds … that had been left behind. It was captivating. I started doing this out of sheer boredom, I guess … I was in the middle of some chaos in my life … And then, within a matter of a month or two of going into these places and looking at the photos I was taking I realized it was very representative of my life. That’s when it became about second chances and, you know, grace and redemption. I was going into these places that most people would see as an eyesore and I was finding the beauty that was still left within them. For me, it became about taking those things that have been lost, forgotten and pushed away and showing that there is still beauty inside. It became me telling the story of my life.


Dennis Minner Jr.'s transformational green chair

Dennis Minner Jr.’s transformational green chair [Dennis Minner Jr. photo]

What is something you can never seem to finish?

Probably working in my yard – like landscaping type stuff. I love creating and working in my backyard. Anytime I’m sitting there bored at home, I will just randomly get up and start tinkering in my backyard. My wife just laughs because it’s kind of just a constant thing I’m always messing with.

What have you created of which you are most proud?

One of the things that I helped to create – both of my children. Having a part in creating my two daughters is what pushes me, it’s what pushes me to continue doing my photography and just working hard period to provide for them and my wife. Artwise, I have a photo of a green chair that’s in a room that’s almost a black-and-white room and there’s a skylight shining down on it. I opened the door and I [saw] that chair sitting in that room all by itself. Immediately, even before snapping the photo, I choked  up and I teared up. I realized that chair was me. It was while I was going through all the chaos and I remember thinking ‘that’s my life right now.’ It’s just naturally deteriorating, it’s falling apart. But I saw this light – the skylight shining down – and for me, from my perspective, it was this image of God. That he was still with me no matter what I was going through. I’m not kidding, at every show I’m at, there are at least a couple people who will start crying just looking at one of the photos. It’s been absolutely amazing to me that in the middle of a divorce or in the middle of going through horrific times medically or financially, [the photos] open up this incredible conversation about hope and about restoration. I think that’s a common thread.

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