Dennis Witmer

Dennis Witmer was born in 1957, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His parents were Mennonite farmers, a background which has influenced his attitudes towards both the land and American culture. During high school, it became apparent that his father’s small farm was not economically viable, and he decided to pursue a college education. He majored in Physics at Millersville University, and continued his studies at a graduate level at the University of Pennsylvania in engineering. After receiving his doctorate in 1985, he spent a year working for a large corporation in northern New Jersey. He married Rachel Brubaker, who is a wildlife biologist, in 1986, and moved with her to Kotzebue, Alaska in June of 1987, to work at the Selawik Refuge. They moved to Fairbanks in November of 1991, and to Spokane in 2012.

Dennis Witmer began making photographs in 1977 as an undergraduate at Millersville College in Pennsylvania. In 1985, he was accepted into the graduate fine art photography department at the Rhode Island School of Design, but after completing an interview there, elected to decline the offer, and instead spend time photographing in the American landscape. His move to Alaska in 1987 in order to spend more time making photographs was a direct result of this decision. He has participated in workshops taught by George Tice, Richard Misrach, and Emmet Gowin.

Witmer’s work over the past forty years has been concerned predominantly with the landscape, especially in places close to home. While living in Alaska, he photographed both the urban and rural settlements as well as the wilderness. Since moving to Spokane, he has focused on two subjects: Grain Elevators, and Basalt formations.

As a landscape photographer, Witmer has been influenced by others working in the same tradition, including Timothy O’Sullivan, Lewis Baltz, and especially Robert Adams. For more than 25 years, he worked mostly with 8×10 and 12×20 inch format cameras.

Witmer is interested in presenting his work in book form and has published two books using traditional printing methods (“Far to the North”, 2005, and “Front Street, Kotzebue”, 2008), and has completed more than one hundred artist books using print on demand technology.

Over the past decades, Witmer’s work has been included in over 75 exhibits, including twenty-five one person shows (at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, and the Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon), and numerous invited and juried shows, including at the Stephen Daiter Gallery in Chicago. His work is included in the collection of the University of Alaska Museum, the Alaska State Museum in Juneau, the Portland Art Museum, the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, and in many private collections.