Running down a dream: Vale photographer ready to open new studio

Dana Gookin-Owens stands in her new studio at the corner of Bryant Street South and B Street West in Vale. Gookin-Owens will host an open house Friday. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – In the 1980s Dana Gookin-Owens found her passion.

She began taking photos – of car accidents, ribbon cuttings and local people – for the Oakdale Leader newspaper in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

The job was part-time but Gookin-Owens discovered she loved to be behind the camera. Over the years, Gookin-Owens’ love of photography morphed into a full-time gig as she snapped photos of horse shows and turned to outdoor portraits of people and animals.

Last fall Gookin-Owens and her husband, Marty, bought the building at the corner of Bryant Street South and B Street West in Vale. The building was the former home of Davis Photography.

On Friday, June 14, Gookin-Owens will hold an open house for her new business, Studio D Portrait Design.

“It’s always been a dream,” said Gookin-Owens.

Gookin-Owens will focus on pet photography but will also take portraits of people, graduating seniors and family photos.

Gookin-Owens said the open house will close out more than six months of renovation to the building. The structure suffered damage during the spate of severe snowstorms that hit the area in 2017, she said.

“We started working on it after the first of the year,” said Gookin-Owens.

Gookin-Owens said the snow damaged the celling and cold weather damaged pipes in the building. Now, though, the interior is refurbished and last week Gookin-Owens was putting the finishing touches on a new coat of paint on the walls.

“It will be an ongoing project,” said Gookin-Owens.

The work of Gookin-Owens and her husband shows throughout the house. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor – including work on the studio section – and they also redid the upstairs portion of the building.

Once the home of the Red Rock Chapel, Gookin-Owens will utilize the building for most of the animal portraits.

Scattered across the walls are large photos Gookin-Owens snapped in the past, mostly of people with horses. She admits she is proud of the photos and wants to bring her art skills to Vale.

“I do unique, creative and edgy stuff,” said Gookin-Owens.

Gookin-Owens said she wants to show people that photography has power to produce deep emotions.

“I want to try to get people back to photos. I want to give people something they can’t get with their iPhone,” said Gookin-Owens.

Gookin-Owens said she decided to start doing animal portraits about 12 years ago.

“I lost my dog and I didn’t have any pictures of her,” said Gookin-Owens.

Gookin-Owens said as a photographer she likes to produce images for people that can last a lifetime.

“I create something for people to take home and put on their wall. I create memories and something that is priceless,” said Gookin-Owens.

She said she would do anything “for the shot” and that often means taking her subjects outdoors to take advantage of nature’s light.

Gookin-Owens said her journey to Vale can be traced to her husband’s past. As a teenager, he passed through Vale. The area made an impression, said Gookin-Owens.

“He just fell in love,” said Gookin Owens.

A year ago, the two retired from their metal recycling yard and trucking business and decided to travel north. Now they operate a small ranch outside of Vale.

Gookin-Owens said her prices vary and urged interested local residents to call her at 541-709-1962 to find out more.

“I am really excited about serving Vale,” said Gookin-Owens.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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