LGBTQ Houstonians are raising funds for community photographer and archivist Dalton DeHart after his home was severely damaged by smoke and water from a fire in a neighboring home on Christmas Eve.
An unattended condo unit in DeHart’s Upper Kirby complex caught fire around 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 24. Smoke quickly spread into two adjoining buildings, including DeHart’s home. A few hours after the fire was believed to be extinguished, a flare-up occurred and firefighters had to enter DeHart’s condo to spray it down with water.
“I knew that it was going to have some damage, but I had no idea that it would be so totally demolished, with all of the sheetrock down and everything in there soaked,” DeHart said.
Fortunately, his priceless archive of LGBTQ community photos was not stored in his home. All of those film negatives are currently being archived at Doorstep Digital, and the more recent digital photos are safely stored on backup drives.
It is estimated that it will take about 10 months for DeHart’s condo to be rebuilt, and nearly all of the belongings inside of his home were ruined, including his bedroom set, dining set, clothing, bookcases, sofas, chairs, and two computers.
Since DeHart’s homeowners insurance will only cover part of his replacement expenses, donations received from an online GoFundMe campaign will help him purchase the clothing and computer equipment he needs immediately. Any excess donations will go to support the nonprofit Dalton DeHart Photographic Foundation.
After sharing news of the fire on Facebook, DeHart received hundreds of messages from his friends and supporters asking how they could help. Several people offered him a place to stay and furniture, and the GoFundMe campaign has already raised over $44,000 for DeHart, who wants to thank everyone for their generosity.
“Although my life has been dedicated to giving to others, it’s almost impossible for me to ask for assistance from anybody else,” he said. “I appreciate this more than people will ever know.”
DeHart, a retired English professor, has been a beloved photographer in the Houston area for over 35 years. He has captured more than one million photos of local gatherings, including countless LGBTQ events. In 2015, he founded the Dalton DeHart Photographic Foundation to preserve Houston’s LGBTQ history by digitizing the earliest photos and making the entire collection accessible online for free.
“If you know Dalton DeHart, you know he gives back in countless ways through his time and talent. He is a community treasure. Now, it’s time for the community to give back to him,” the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce wrote on Facebook.
Let’s Talk About Gay Stuff, a local podcast that discusses LGBTQ issues and personalities, wrote: “One of the Houston LGBTQ community’s most familiar faces and preserver of Houston’s LGBTQ+ history, Dalton DeHart, could use your support. If you can, please consider supporting Dalton through this GoFundMe page.”
The Lone Star Volleyball Association (LSVA), an organization for LGBTQ people and their allies, also shared the GoFundMe link. “Dalton has taken stunning photos of our events over the years. Consider helping a friend in need by donating,” LSVA wrote.
Moving forward, DeHart remains optimistic.
“It’s very heartwarming that people think I’m worthy of this support,” he says. “I’ve lost a lot of things, and many of them I can’t replace, but so many of them I can. I will continue a successful move forward. I’m perfectly safe. I have a place to stay and I’m alright. I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
To donate to the Dalton DeHart GoFundMe account, go here. You can also send cash donations directly to him via Venmo @dalton-dehart-1.
Learn more about the Dalton DeHart Photographic Foundation at daltondehart.com.