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Stephen Dunn - Legend

Stephen, self-portrait, 2018

It’s not easy to write these words, unfortunately I have written a few too many as a lecturer at Edinburgh College over the years.

It is with the greatest sadness that tonight I write about the passing of Stephen Dunn, a graduate of Edinburgh College Photography. I don’t often use the word 'legend' but in this case, it is befitting.

Stephen studied photography with us, graduating with a BA Professional Photography degree in 2018. During that time, we the staff and all his fellow students got to know him for his wit, intelligence, sensibility, huge generosity, and hard work ethic, he was a grafter. I’m sure Stephen would not mind me saying he was a man of mature age but of young and active mind, he fitted in so well and especially enjoyed working alongside students of all ages. He was a rock, so supportive and full of passion for his chosen subject. He became class rep and managed the task with compassion, good sense and contributed so much to the class.

I reached out to his classmates to break the sad news and instantly got replies:

“an amazing human being with sharp wit and so much joy for everything”.

“Stephen was such a backbone to many of us and really was one of the kindest and generous people I’ve met”.

“Stephen was an incredible person and helped everyone in so many ways”.

“Stephen was a wonderful man whom I owe so much to”.

“The advice and support he gave me made me not just a better photographer but a better human being”.

“Stephen was a lovely guy who was always going above and beyond to help and offer advice to everyone, I’ll never forget his generosity throughout our time at college.

“I’m grateful to have known him, such a character and an incredibly talented and intelligent person”.

"To me Stephen will be a life example, I hope I will become as wise and generous as him one day".

"Seeing the way he cared and shared his generosity is a true example of how human beings should interact and support each other".

In June 2018 Stephen and his class travelled to London to exhibit their final year work at Free Range Graduate Show. I have been reminded by the many students who have messaged me the effect that Stephen had on the class that week. He made sure that everyone was doing all right, helping put up their work and giving them advice and words of encouragement. At the end of the week Stephen arranged for everyone to go to the Globe Theatre to see a Shakespeare play, which of course he paid for every ticket. It was a profound experience for all and a way that he could pass on his love for theatre by introducing others to the experience.

Artist Statement: Stephen Dunn, Free Range Graduate Show, London. 2018

Update 26th Sept, 2023

Thanks to Facebook Memories a reminder came up on my timeline. Five years ago today we celebrated Stephen's Graduation and presented him with the Creative Industries Ambassador Award. The award was presented by Edinburgh College Principal, Audrey Cumberford. Stephen wrote about his awards and time at Edinburgh College, saying....

"In the end what is important is not the certificate or the award but it is what you learn and how you help others. For me that is success. However, if testimony is needed about the good this institution can do, it should be seen from today’s ceremonies. There were so many people today who's futures have been enhanced by Edinburgh College".

After he graduated, we remained friends, I became chair of the Scottish Region of the British Institute of Professional Photography where my first thought was to recruit Stephen to be treasurer, lucky for me he agreed. We worked alongside Pavel Tamm another graduate and professional photographer. As a small team we steered the region, rebuilt the website and hosted the professional and student photography awards for a few years. None of this would have happened if it was not for Stephen’s entrepreneurial skills and financial savvy. His enthusiasm was infectious. One year through his many friends in the world of acting and theatre managed to secure Grant Stott to record the voiceover for our awards ceremony. It was a huge success hosted on the big screen at the Grosvenor Cinema, Glasgow. I’ll never forget those times.

I’ll also never forget the time we had breakfast in a hotel at the Birmingham Photo Show. Stephen asked me about what was happening at college. I told him that we had a dream to convert our old large darkroom into a modern digital print space, retouching area, and student social space but the cost was going to be huge. He looked up at me and instantly said ‘how much do you need’. I won’t go into details, but he made that happen for us. When it was finally built and equiped, I asked him if we could put his name on the wall and as is his character, he said no need, but could you put a quote from Jack Lemmon.

“No matter how successful you get, always send the elevator back down.”

Today we can thank him for the legacy he has left behind and I will continue to walk into our digital print space ‘Focalpoint’ with a smile on my face remembering the man who made it possible and enjoy reading the Jack Lemmon quote which is proudly displayed on the wall.

His passion outside of college was football and theatre, he was on the board of Hibernian Football Club and the Lyceum Theatre. I know he invested so much of his time, expertise, and resources into both.

A Love Letter to Floodlights, Stephen Dunn, published 2020

Our love and condolences go to his wife, Joan and children Lauren and Callum.

As I say, legend…..those who knew him, know.

You will be missed by all the staff and students, but you will always be remembered - Jon.


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