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Dick Arentz (American, b.1935)

Photography

Also known as:  Arentz, Richard

Birth Place: Detroit, MI United States

Biography:

Dick Arentz (May 19, 1935) is a photographer and author best known for his platinum-palladium printing technique. His book, Platinum & Palladium Printing (1999) is considered the pre-eminent text on the subject by photography experts. He has mentored countless photographers, conducted dozens of workshops, and has had over fifty exhibitions of his work at museums and private galleries across the globe. 

Arentz was born in Detroit to a middle-class family. An idyllic early life spent in St. Claire Shores, Michigan lead Arentz to become curious about documenting life through photography. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1959, then followed this with an MS in oral surgery in 1965. While already interested in photography, Arentz continued to practice oral surgery while photographing the landscape in his off-hours. 

1969 would prove to be a defining year in the young photographer’s life. After years of practicing amateur photography, Arentz was invited to study with famed photographer Phil Davis at the University of Michigan. Arentz’s informal thesis, a work called Death Valley Portfolio (1972) was reproduced in its entirety for Camera Magazine

He took a sabbatical to Europe in 1973 before moving his family to Flagstaff Arizona in 1975. He received an Edna Rider Whiteman Foundation Grant and spent the rest of the seventies researching, shooting, and producing Four Corners County (1986) a photography book that would pique Arentz’s interest in platinum-palladium techniques. Through all of this Arentz continued to practice oral surgery, a career that he wouldn’t entirely give up until the late 1990s. 

Arentz returned to The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor to complete his studies with Davis in the 1980s. During this time he continued to research and write about the platinum-palladium technique, intensifying his studies when he found that there wasn’t much previously-published material on the (at-the-time) niche photography genre. The unpredictability of the process, materials, and end result intrigued Arentz, pushing him further in his development of the process. 

He produced two more major works in the 1980s, The American Southwest (1987) and Outside the Mainstream (1988), the latter of which took three years to complete and was fully-funded by an Isaac W. Bernheim Fellowship. These photographs explore the effect humans had on the landscape of the American South and Appalachia post-1960. The ghostly images that Arentz produced during this time are haunting, arresting, and achingly beautiful. The influence of Ansel Adams is apparent, but Arentz had evolved the medium even further -- a sense of loss or longing infuses each Arenztian landscape. 

Arentz obsession with platinum-palladium fueled even more innovations, from uncovering a solution for paper suitable to print photographs on, to basic techniques for teaching new photographers, to the uses of sodium chloroplatinate as a control agent. This culminated in Arentz’s seminal work, the book Platinum & Palladium Printing (1999), which is now considered a critical text for photographers exploring this technique. 

The 2000s saw Arentz switch to digital photography, tour Europe multiple times, and produce the book Italy Through Another Lens (2010), which highlighted his current shift to digital. Arentz continues to evolve as an artist, his latest phase concentrating on shooting the interiors of English cathedrals with a historic Leica lens. Instantly recognizable and impossible to ignore, his control of shadow and form makes an Arentz photograph grab the viewer and never let go. That’s the power of an Arentz.   

Dick Arentz Frequently Asked Questions

How much are Dick Arentz’s photographs worth?

On the lower end of the spectrum, a Dick Arentz platinum palladium print can go between $200-400 USD while signed platinum palladium prints can go for upwards of $3000 USD. 

What are famous photographs by Dick Arentz?

Dick Arentz’ Death Valley Portfolio (1972), Four Corners County (1986) The American Southwest (1987), and Through Another Lens (2010)

What is the value of Dick Arentz’s photographs?

A typical Dick Arentz print will typically be sold between $400 and $3000 depending on its format. Many of his platinum palladium prints are considered quite valuable by collectors.


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