Search For:

Share This

Appalachia photographer Dean Hill

Photo: Joela Brown
Photo: Joela Brown
Photo: Joela Brown
Photo: Joela Brown
Photo: Dean Hill Photography
Photo: Dean Hill Photography
Photo: Dean Hill Photography
Photo: Dean Hill Photography

Dean Hill is still that kid running the hills of Appalachia. 

Only now he packs his camera. 

A professional photographer known for evocative Appalachian landscapes, Hill grew up on a tobacco farm in Morgan County, camping, hunting, fishing and splashing around streams with childhood friends. 

For nearly 25 years, since first exhibiting his work in 1998 at an art fair in his West Liberty hometown, Hill has been studying and photographing the eastern Kentucky landscape. 

“It’s a varied landscape – beautiful and delicate – and there’s hardly two days in a row where things are the same,” says the Licking Valley RECC consumer-member. “My wife, Karen, and I walk early every morning, and we got this hill in the distance we call the Misty Mountain. It’s taken a lot of use and abuse over the centuries, but it still seems to be holding its own with its beauty.” 

Hill’s two published books show the scope and breadth of his work – what he calls a “photographic journey into the heart of Appalachia.” His first book, The Spirit of Appalachian Kentucky, sold out. The second one, Appalachia – Spirit of the Seasons, extends beyond Kentucky into West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina and includes 123 photos through the seasons. It is available through Hill’s website at www.deanhillphotography.com

Lately in his work, Hill has been focusing on the intimacy of micro-landscapes: reflections in streams, a beaver dam – settings that require a closer look. 

“I found there’s a lot of beauty in these,” he says.

“When I’m photographing and getting out and playing in the stream, I’m still a kid,” says professional nature and landscape photographer Dean Hill. 

The Licking Valley RECC consumer-member has fond memories of an eastern Kentucky childhood spent fishing and hunting and enjoying nature in and around his Morgan County stomping grounds. 

“I would run the hills with my buddies, camp, fish and splash around in the stream.” 

A self-described jack-of-all-trades, Hill worked in construction, logging and farming while dabbling in photography. After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in forestry, Hill set his sights farther afield and spent two years in the Peace Corps, taking pictures as he trekked through the Himalayas, and then continued his explorations throughout Southeast Asia. 

“But I always ended up coming back to eastern Kentucky,” he says. “The roots grow deep here in Appalachia, and the farther away I got the more I wanted to come back.” 

No matter where he was, Hill kept taking pictures – and getting more and more positive feedback. In 1998, he exhibited his work professionally for the first time at an art fair in his West Liberty hometown and at that point decided to pick up his camera fulltime. 

Today, Hill’s gallery is located, he says, about two miles “as the crow flies” from where he was born and raised on a tobacco farm near the tip of Paint Creek and Paintsville Lake, an inspirational setting for his photographs capturing the natural and ever-evolving splendor of eastern Kentucky. 

“It’s a varied landscape – beautiful and delicate – and there’s hardly two days in a row where things are the same,” Hill says. “My wife, Karen, and I walk early every morning, and we got this hill in the distance we call the Misty Mountain. It’s taken a lot of use and abuse over the centuries, but it still seems to be holding its own with its beauty.” 

Hill’s two published books show the scope and breadth of his work – what he calls a “photographic journey into the heart of Appalachia.” His first book, The Spirit of Appalachian Kentucky, featuring 84 photographs, sold out. The second one, Appalachia – Spirit of the Seasons, extends beyond Kentucky into West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina and includes 123 photos through the seasons and a forward by Kentucky author Silas House. It is available through Hill’s website at www.deanhillphotography.com

Lately in his work, Hill has been focusing on micro-landscapes, close-ups of natural settings like reflections in streams. 

“I found there’s a lot of beauty in these,” he says. “They’re dynamic, with interesting light and darkness. They’re more intimate than typical landscape pictures – full of the abstract and texture.” 

Hill has also zoomed in on a clutch of trees following a rainstorm to see “the dynamics of a storm cloud moving through the landscape,” as well as the shadows it creates and reflections of tree canopies in pools. 

“You’re getting photographs where you have to stand there and look at them awhile,” he says. “It’s not easily recognized right off the bat. You got to take a closer look.” 

A beaver pond whose denizens dammed up the culverts inspired a half dozen photography trips. 

“The water had backed up through the trees and turned it into a landscape full of reflections, with leaves floating on the water and trees sticking out through the water. 

“I had a blast with this,” says Hill. 

He’s still that kid, running (and photographing) the hills of Appalachia. 

Share This
Don't Leave! Sign up for Kentucky Living updates ...
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.