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Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 2:28am

Dan Winters Photographs The Famous

Updated: 2 years ago.
Self-portrait of the photographer in the late 80's. Winters is known for his evocative lighting that comes from simple techniques (photo Dan Winters)

Dan Winters says when he shoots a photo he wants it to encapsulate everything the subject is.

So when Fred Rogers came to him, he had the children's TV host take off his iconic red sweater and put it on a hanger.

Then he turned his lens to sweater and photographed it.

Winters says, Rogers in person embodied the homespun sweater.

"That's what he's like," Winters says. "It wasn't an act. He's like that 24-7."

Winters specializes in taking portraits of famous people.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tupac Shaku and Will Ferell all have found themselves at the other end of a Dan Winters photo treatment.

And once these images are published, they often say as much about the celebrity as they do about the photographer.

"When I decide to accept an assignment or do a job or do a series of images," Winters says, "I give it everything that I possibly can."

Winters' style is expertly lit and places the subject front and center.

There are no loud backgrounds and only muted colors -- greys and skin tones -- as in his stark, side-on shot of actress Natalie Portman.

"Photographing actors is pretty simple," Winters says, "They're very used to the camera and they're used to the process. They're used to sitting there, they're used to waiting while lights are being tweaked, etc. Because it’s a part of their daily job description."

The Savannah exhibit features Morgan Freeman and Michael Jordan photos among others.

But Winters is not just a "photographer to the stars."

So the museum display also highlights what the artist calls his first passion -- those who journey up to stars of a different kind.

Winters photographed the last launches of the Space Shuttle era.

"I think what's interesting about it the most is that it's so far removed from anything you've seen before," Winters says, "That's pre-supposing that you're not working for NASA and watching every launch. From a spectator’s standpoint, it’s so far out of your normal realm of experience that it really is a spectacle."

Winters shot the shuttles and the preparations for their launches without people in the photos.

So the images have a cold and alien feel -- like space itself.

Winters says, he grew up fascinated by space and wanted to follow his passion.

Likewise, he tells young photographers to listen to their instincts and follow their intuitions.

"I think if you're truly, truly committed and you're truly passionate about it, you feel like it's your life's calling, by all means I would say it's just one step at a time," Winters says, "Look at your feet, don't look at the peak of the mountain. Look at your feet as you're going."

The exhibit "Dan Winters' America: Icons and Ingenuity" is on display at the Telfair Museums' Jepson Center for the Arts in Savannah through November 11th.

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