April 19 • 02:40 PM

Life through the lens

Imlay City man's artistic talents branch out to world of photography

Dan’s perfect timing managed to capture swan in mid-drink at General Motors Tech Center pond in Warren. photo by Dan Curtis.

October 17, 2007
For more than 30 years, Dan Curtis used clay to birth some of General Motors' best sellers. Today, he uses another of his talents, photography, to deconstruct the world around him. The cluster of flowerettes that comprise a lilac bloom, a droplet that remains on a swan's beak or the myriad of a ship's ropes and sails— it all fascinates the Imlay City man who finds that his camera can teach the best life lessons.

• • •

Photography has turned into a full-time hobby for the retired design sculptor.
Art, in several forms, has always been a part of Dan's life. A native of Ohio, he attend-ed the Dayton Art Institute, majoring in sculpture with minors in photography and ceramics. He worked with his instructor on several religious pieces. The largest and most notable undertak-ing was a 30 foot statue of St. Michael and Lucifer that can be found in Houston, Texas.

Right out of college, he secured a job with General Motors as a design sculptor at the Tech Center in Warren where he created full size and scale model vehicles in clay.

It was satisfying work.

"You couldn't tell the difference between the model and the real thing," he said.

His career portfolio includes modeling a Buick race car for NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough, Buick's concept show car, the Wildcat and a concept show truck for Peterbilt. His work was showcased in a World of Motion display at Disney World's Epcot Center, he was featured in Hot Rod Magazine and received the Harley Earl Award as a tech center employee.

"I miss the clay," Dan says today, almost four years after retiring.

• • •

Photography has always held Dan's interest. One of his first cameras was an Argus C3 Rangefinder and he did his own developing. He bought his first 35 mm when his first daughter was born 37 years ago and launched into side jobs too.

"My buddy and I used to shoot weddings and I liked to go to dirt bike races," Dan says.

When Dan and wife, Mary, decided to leave the suburbs and move north to Imlay City, he chronicled the construction of their new home with photos.

Shadow and light bring out the exquisite beauty of a tiger lily. photo by Dan Curtis.
"Then my daughters signed up for the equestrian team and I've been taking pictures now for the last 20 years," he said.

Today, two of his granddaughters ride on the team and he sells photos to the riders' parents.

Of course, the ten acre farm where the Curtis family made a home for horses, goats and dogs became another great source for picture taking.

Then there were the special trips Dan and his three brothers-in-law took once a year—white water rafting in West Virginia, a horse-back trip through the Colorado Rockies, snorkeling in the Florida Keys and sailing a tall ship on Lake Michigan.

"I think I used something like ten or 15 rolls of film on the Colorado trip," he recalls with a laugh.

As for subjects, Dan's willing to focus his camera lens on just about everything.

"If it moves, I'll photograph it. If it doesn't move I'll photograph it," he says, matter-of-factly.

Today, he works part-time for Imlay City's Classic Sports Photography.

• • •

Yet, it's pretty obvious that the natural world has a hold on his attention.

"Nature photography fascinates me," he says.

Dan’s filled numerous albums with scenic photos from family trips, such as this one shot in Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon. photo by Dan Curtis.
"It's a challenge to get close to the animals. It's not so much that they don't see you but that they trust you enough."

That's where patience and determination comes in. Dan wanted a closer shot of a pair of wood ducks that frequented his pond.

"I built a nesting box for them but couldn't get close enough to them so I bought a hunting blind, let them get accustomed to it and after a couple of days I got what I wanted," he said. Dan's proud of the resulting product.

Then there's the unique opportunities his camera has afforded him. On a whim, he asked veterinarian Dr. Jim Sillers if he could shoot a surgery. When one of Dan's own dogs needed a tumor removed from her back leg, he was able to capture it on film.

"With the camera I was able to zoom in while Dr. Sillers sutured the leg. It's amazing to watch such detailed work," Dan said.

"Photographing people at work really piques my better realize what they go through."

"Photography helps you see things in a different way and can change people's opinions at times. I know that my own feelings are affected by the way I see things."

Assistant Editor
Castle Creek
04 - 19 - 19
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