Photographer Dalton DeHart, who’s been snapping pictures of all things LGBT for more than three decades, unveiled plans for a non-profit foundation on Sunday to help preserve the exhaustive photographic history of gay Houston.
With the non-profit Dalton DeHart Photographic Foundation, he hopes to create an organization to organize, preserve and digitize the photos, which date back to the mid 1980s. And if you’ve been an LGBT in Houston for any length of time, it’s likely DeHart (top photo) has herded you into a group shot at a charity fundraiser, community rally, sporting event or a night out in the clubs of Montrose with his trademark “honey” as he snaps the photos.
“I’ve shot almost everything imaginable,” DeHart says.
He’s not exaggerating. From the early days of the Montrose Softball League and HIV agencies, to the administrations of at least four mayors and most every black tie dinner in between, DeHart has been there snapping away. Even after suffering a broken hip in a fall in 2014, DeHart managed to have friends push him around in a wheelchair so he could shot photos during Pride, which he counts as among his favorite annual events to photograph.
The tally? From the mid 1980s to 2004 when he transitioned to digital photography, about 12,000 rolls of film and more than 400,000 images that need to be scanned and digitized, DeHart says.
“We want to make them available so people can see them and make them available for everybody. That’s what we’re trying to do,” he says.
So on Sunday, DeHart joined with supporters and board members of the organization – including attorney and associate Municipal Court Judge Jerry Simoneaux and Outsmart Publisher Greg Jeu – to launch the foundation during an event at the Montrose Center. Gay City Council member Mike Laster presented him with a proclamation from Mayor Annise Parker naming Sunday as Dalton DeHart Photographic Foundation Day.
“Even though we’ve been thinking about this for 10 years plus, finally we have got to get it moving now. We’ve got to get on it because time keeps beating and we need to make it happen,” DeHart says.
DeHart hopes the non-profit will raise money to digitize the images and upload them to the foundation’s website. He has a Houston firm in mind to convert the film to digital, but it will be an expensive, time-consuming process. Donations were accepted during Sunday’s event and DeHart says soon, supporters will be able to make online donations at the non-profit’s website.
“I’ve actually got boxes and boxes of negatives all in order. It will take awhile and certainly won’t be done overnight,” he says.
During his busiest years, DeHart says he’d snap 400 events a year. He’s slowed down some since his injury last year, but still manages to photograph about five events a week – or more than 250 a year.
“People always say how do you keep on going? My answer is always well if you go home in the mirror, what you see looking back at you that’s what motivates me. I’m quite a people person. The people keep me wanting to do this because they are so incredible,” DeHart says.
Photos by Rob Martinez