Think of the most famous person you have ever met. Now, multiply that experience by a few hundred introductions, throw in at least one trip to Sesame Street and you have a glimpse of Wayland resident Allan Dines’ life.
And he has the photographs to prove it.
Throughout his 20-year career as a photographer, Dines has turned his lens on the faces of some of the most famous people in the world, including Sesame Street's resident blue muppet, Grover. Now he’s sharing those images and the experience of years in his new studio and gallery next door to on Old Connecticut Path.
From the framed tickets and press passes in the bathroom to the poster-size black and white close-up of Sting in the main studio, Northstar Photography is simultaneously a story of Dines’ past and a canvas for his future.
Dines said he had his eye on the building, which sat vacant for about nine months between tenants, for some time.
“You have to be in the right frame of mind to make a change in life like that,” said Dines from his desk in the new studio and gallery. “I never wanted a studio before. What I enjoyed doing was being around lots of people, lots of the time.”
But then he realized that the thousands of photographs stored throughout his home could offer a ready circle of “lots of people” to join him at the studio. So he printed and catalogued and framed hundreds of images. When Northstar Photography opened in early April, the eyes of dozens of celebrities, mostly musicians and singers, gazed around the room while their voices poured out of the studio’s stereo system, which Dines keeps dialed in at WZLX.
The music reminds him, he said, of his time as the house photographer at the House of Blues in Boston.
Glamour and a Darkroom
For more than two years, Dines spent evenings photographing the parade of artists who graced the stage at the House of Blues. In most cases, Dines shot only one roll of black and white film.
Film was expensive and he was poor, Dines said. One roll would have to do.
After spending the evening in the fog and noise at the House of Blues, Dines would retreat to his darkroom – a rigged bathroom in his home – with that single roll of film. As the radio played songs or interviews with the artists passing through Boston to play the House of Blues, Dines would watch his images of that same artist appear in a pool of developing fluid.
“It was surreal,” he said. “It was absolutely surreal, and it happened all the time. It was a hell of a way to spend two-plus years in your early 30s.”
Dines had to deliver images the next day and no photo processing business could turn the images that quickly, so he taught himself how to process film.
In fact, Dines is entirely self-taught. He calls himself the “definition of an accidental photographer.”
Dines started shooting during his honeymoon in Greece, but picked up the hobby with seriousness while his wife was in graduate school early in their marriage. She was busy on the weekends and he needed something to do.
He took to reading Popular Photography and testing himself with the various topical lessons the magazine featured at that time.
Changing Times, Similar Joy
Thousands of images and many years of experience later, Dines no longer shoots film. He, like most other professional photographers, has embraced the advances of digital photography.
“The immediacy has changed the most,” Dines said. “You never used to look at the back of the camera. We miss photos because we’re looking at the camera.”
Dines’ subject matter has changed a bit as well. While he still shoots the occasional celebrity or concert (and he’d gladly do it for the rest of his life), he now spends most of his time at family events and is building his client base for headshots and family portraits.
As long as he’s behind the camera, he’s perfectly content with this new season in his career.
“I love family events,” Dines said. “When you’re shooting birthdays, anniversaries, all these family events, everyone’s there for one family. It’s one family, and everybody’s happy to be there. I like events that make people happy.”
The photographer that once had a press pass granting him access to the “City of Boston,” now wants to spend his time sharing his images with designers, enthusiasts and collectors looking for a one-of-a-kind image of a one-of-a-kind celebrity.
And he wants to bring a professional photography studio to Wayland. Passport photos, headshots, senior pictures, family portraits and album books are some of the things Dines is prepared to offer in his studio at Northstar Photography.
He’ll kick off that part of his business with a Mother’s Day special that offers customers, by appointment, an 8x10 Mother's Day family portrait. He’ll donate 15 percent of the cost to Yoga Reaches Out, a charity started by Wayland resident Sarah Gardner.
“It’s an experiment," Dines said of his new studio, "but I have the ability to let it start, to figure it out, what it’s going to be. With the bricks and mortar, you do have something different. When you have a place like this, you have a lot more opportunity.”
For more information, to schedule a shoot or to view images that Dines has digitized, see NorthstarPhotography.com.