FAIRMOUNT — Generations of teenagers have gotten to know about Fairmount’s James Dean, who died tragically at age 24 in a car crash, as the actor who came a cultural icon for the 1955 film “Rebel Without a Cause.”

But Madison-Grant High School art students recently explored a less-known side of Dean: photographer.

“Most of the time, we look at James Dean as an actor. But I hadn’t even myself known his interest in photography,” said art teacher Cherie Solms.

Dean-inspired black-and-white photography by the Madison-Grant students has been on display at The Branch in Fairmount since his birthday on Feb. 8 and continues through next week. Contest winner Emma Shoemaker received $100 presented by Dean’s cousin Marcus Winslow.

The students each were given copies of the book, “The Photography of James Dean” by Charles P. Quinn with Martin Landau, which described his interest in photography and how he took lessons, to inspire them. Dean reportedly was approached by photographer Roy Schott, who wanted the actor to sit for him but agreed to do it only in exchange for photography lessons.

Solms said it was important for the students who grew up in the same community as Dean to develop this connection with his work.

“To be involved in an art competition is an excellent opportunity for students to grow as artists,” she said. “It becomes important in their artistic journey and helps them become confident.”

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.

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