Downtown Knoxville Through the Creative Eyes of David Denton

Photo image by David Denton

I’ve taken photographs during the pandemic to preserve some of the sights and scenes and I’ve shared some of them here. My friend, architect, downtown denizen and sometimes contributor to this site, David Denton has used his sheltering in place time to create beautiful images that go beyond simple photographs, inventing his own mash-up version and re-imaginings of downtown. Please take the time to explore these amazing images through the videos.

Here’s David:

It was 10 years ago this month that my wife and I moved to Knoxville after many years of living in Los Angeles. About that same time, I started taking pictures in Downtown Knoxville which offered an abundance of visual opportunity. In the 10 years that we have lived Downtown we have witnessed an amazing renaissance but now in a few short months Downtown is shuttered and struggling.

It seemed like the right time to celebrate Downtown at least virtually, and a good motivation for me to finally organize the hundreds of photographic images I have taken. I have attached the YouTube links for 3 volumes of some of my favorite photographic images .

Many people have asked me why I do not label the images or give some explanation. I’ve always said I don’t want to influence what people see but rather to allow them experience it from who they are. Perhaps more honestly, most of the time I don’t know what it means or why I take these pictures.

But I have learned  that for me the greatest benefit of taking photographs is not the final print but rather the development of a way of living in which  one  is constantly scanning the visual landscape for photographic opportunities thus focusing on interesting and beautiful aspects of our environment ignoring the rest. It simply is a better way to live!

They say a photograph is worth 1000 words. But in fact, it’s worth even more in that photography can express something for which there may not be words. I don’t intend for these photographs to be documentary but rather interpretive as I see in my mind’s eye. Ten years of photographing Downtown Knoxville has given me a deeper understanding of the city,  people and the history. It’s a kind of understanding that I don’t know how to put into words and thus  let the images speak for themselves.

The current calm in Downtown is upsetting when one thinks about why it is so but it is a great time to really see Downtown without the distraction of people and see the physical environment and this potential as photographic subject material. I hope people will come Downtown when the time is right and bring their cameras and share their experience.

To look is to observe

To see is to understand

To gaze is to absorb

To ponder is to seek


  1. David, as always your imagination is rich beyond what most of us will ever realize. The layering of color and structure you build your photographs with bring a depth of understanding to the visual process many artists only hope to achieve. I love your work and am so glad that you continue to indulge us with delights from your world.

  2. Awesome digital artwork! So enjoyed viewing all of these works. Knoxville is a great subject and you capture it beautifully! Thank you for sharing your talents with us.

  3. Jane Austin Albright says

    David is indeed creative. As architect remodeling our church sanctuary years ago, he reversed the whole plan. Altar at old entrance; entrance inside church. Brilliant!

  4. Tom Grace says

    David, great photos of downtown Knoxville! I really enjoyed watching all 3 videos. I do find it a bit interesting that one of the oldest and more significant buildings in downtown did not make any of the videos! Please think about this and let me know if you can identify the building I am referring too? Thank you and I look forward to the comments.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      Well played. 🙂 His father worked in that building for many years, so I suspect he knows the building. It would make for a great series of shots.

      • David Denton says

        I assume you are speaking of the Medical Arts Building. My father and his 2 partners opened a dental office in that building on the 10th floor after the war. One of his partners was quite well to do and they hired a designer from Marshall Fields in Chicago to design a very special office. It was a very strange combination of art deco and gothic revival with lots of leaded glass, marble columns etc. As a kid I found it rather old fashion and a bit embarrassing and couldn’t understand why my father couldn’t have a modern new office. Later I came to realize what extraordinary place it had been but heard that it had been torn out. When I moved back to Knoxville I was telling a local architect about this and he said that he had written the application for historic designation and that he believed all of the artifacts from my father’s office were put in storage in the basement. Amazingly it was true.The developer who did an excellent job of remodeling took the artifacts from his office and distributed them throughout the building in the new condo units. Some of the artifacts are still on display in the show window on the side of the building. One of the beautiful pointed gothic doors is in the flower shop on the corner. You ask a good question why have I not photographed that building. I don’t know the answer to that but I will get on it. It’s a beautiful building.

  5. Tray Rivera says

    Ninety-eight percent of David Denton’s art reveals the ordinary touched by fabulousness. His art makes us re-see the world.

  6. Tom Grace says

    Correct! It is the Medical Arts Building that I was referring too and thank you for the kind words on the redevelopment. I, along with my brother, Michael were the developers to convert the building to apartments for rent. It has been a very successful transformation of the property to residential. We did try to reuse as much of the original artifacts that we could to maintain much of the historical character of the building. In fact, several of the common corridors are exactly as they were designed and built almost 100 years ago. I look forward to seeing your next set of photos!

  7. tthurman says

    Amazing work, thanks for sharing!

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