The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Dennis Dimick Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Janice Dilg.

December 15, 2014


Dennis Randall Dimick was born in Portland, Oregon in 1951, and grew up on a farm located south of Lake Oswego, Oregon. Actively involved in 4-H and FFA as a boy, Dimick harbored early dreams of pursuing a career as a biologist or forest ranger. In his early teen years, Interstate 205 was built across a portion of his family's land, and seeing the effect that this project had on the environment influenced his later career trajectory.

After graduating from West Linn High School in 1969, Dimick enrolled at Oregon State University. Originally majoring in Agricultural Education, Dimick later switched his focus to General Agriculture. Importantly, at the end of his freshman year, Dimick also purchased a camera and began seriously pursuing what would become a life-long passion for photography. As a sophomore, Dimick joined the photography staff at the OSU Daily Barometer newspaper, and over the course of his undergraduate tenure he took a number of courses from the Journalism department. During his junior year, Dimick worked as a photographer for the Beaver yearbook, and as a senior he was employed by OSU's Office of Agricultural Information where, among other projects, he helped to document the emergence of irrigated agriculture in Umatilla County. In the fall of his senior year, Dimick's supervisor suggested that he consider graduate school, and with his help, Dimick was able to land a full-ride scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dimick graduated from Oregon State in 1973 with a bachelor of science degree in General Agriculture.

In fall 1973, Dimick began graduate studies in Wisconsin's Department of Agricultural Journalism. While in grad school, Dimick also wrote news releases for the College of Agriculture, and produced and hosted a daily radio program. He completed his master's degree in August 1974 and returned to Corvallis, where he was hired as a temporary photographer for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. The following January, he found full-time work as the sports editor and farm writer at the McMinnville News-Register. That summer, Dimick moved to Pendleton, where he worked as a photographer and education writer for the East Oregonian. He stayed there for a year before moving to Walla Walla, Washington to work for a former roommate as the staff photographer at the Union-Bulletin newspaper. In 1978, Dimick moved east to Louisville, Kentucky and joined the staff of the Courier-Journal as a picture editor; this would prove to be his final job in the newspaper business.

In 1980, Dimick began what would become a distinguished career at National Geographic. Initially he worked as a picture editor for the youth magazine until, in 1984, becoming a picture editor for National Geographic Traveler. He also edited a number of books during this time, including the World Encyclopedia of Geography, a project that occupied much of Dimick's time for more than three years. In 1990, he joined the staff of National Geographic magazine as a picture editor, and as the decade moved forward, his work began to focus more squarely on environmental coverage.

In 1997, Dimick became a faculty member at the esteemed Missouri Photo Workshop. Dimick also joined the annual Aspen Environmental Forum as a co-organizer in 2008, and continued on in this capacity for the next four years. In January 2013, he received the most prestigious honor granted by the National Press Photographers Association - the Joseph A. Sprague Memorial Award - for his many contributions to the profession and practice of photojournalism. At the end of 2015, Dimick retired from National Geographic as its Executive Environment Editor, having spent thirty-five years working at the organization in different capacities.