At the age of 17, in 1944, Dennis spent several months in the Photographic Branch of the American Red Cross in London. As well as taking photographs of the troops, he photographed a number of celebrities including King George VI, his Queen Elizabeth, General Teddy Roosevelt and various theatrical and sporting personalities.
He volunteered to join the Navy (following in his father’s footsteps) at the earliest opportunity and in August 1944 reported to his first posting, HMS Royal Arthur at Skegness. From there he transferred to HMS Iron Duke at Malvern and subsequently to the Fleet Air Arm, being stationed first at HMS Daedalus, where he learn the art of aerial photography, and later at HMS Gosling.
After the war, he made a couple of documentary films, including one, ‘Early One Morning’, which enjoys a place in the National Film Archive of the British Film Institute. He then persuaded Picture Post magazine to take him on as a freelance for a project on the newly established State of Israel.
He left photography in 1950 to pursue a successful business career before returning to photography on his retirement in 1993. He married Jacqueline (née Tibber) in 1953, who survives him along with their three children, all of whom are doctors.
Dennis died on 5th August 2018.
Dennis Toff’s portrait of The Royal Academicians has been selected to show in The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition, an annual competition run by the National Portrait Gallery which has a grand prize of £12,000. This year they had 6500 images submitted from 2500 photographers and of those, 60 images were selected for exhibition.
Dennis says, “When I had completed my project to photograph all the members of the Royal Academy of Arts (Royal Academicians) the President asked me to take a group photograph of the Members at their May General Assembly (a governance meeting which takes place three or four times a year). The ‘formal” image is on the RA site but I also took an informal one which is the one I submitted to the Taylor Wessing Prize.”
Dennis’s first book ‘The Painter RAs’ was published by Unicorn Press in 2008 containing virtually all the Painter RAs, and his second book, ‘The Architect and Sculptor RAs’ has just been published by Unicorn Press and contains the remaining RAs – Architects and Sculptors. Both books, in addition to portraits of the Mermber, also have an image of their works and a brief biographical note.