The secret behind the lens

Two photographers portray what they can't explain

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This photograph by Luli Gradin is part of her "Floating World Flowers" series. Gradin will be represented by Studio Gallery 27 through August 31.

Recurring event

"Art from the Road"

  • Studio Gallery 27, Ski Time Square, Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / Free

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Portrait of Isaac Stern by David Michael Kennedy.

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Portrait of Bob Dylan by David Michael Kennedy. Kennedy will be represented by Studio Gallery 27 through August 31.

In 38 years of work, Bob Dylan is the only subject David Michael Kennedy has ever been nervous about photographing.

"Because I felt like I was in the presence of something more. The guy is just a genius," Kennedy said. "And I was more interested in photographing Dylan the person, not the icon we knew in the '60s."

Dylan requested that their session not include any "prima donna" treatment. So Kennedy left his camera crew behind, and Dylan helped him unload the equipment from his car, hang his canvas background and set the lights.

"It turned into two guys having a good time. We were just having beers and taking pictures," Kennedy said. "He relieved me of all the nervousness I was bringing to it, and he liked the idea that I was treating him as any other person."

When photographing celebrities, Kennedy treats them as if they were regular people.

"When I go out to photograph somebody, even someone really special to me, I always think this is just a person with all the same hang-ups and insecurities we have," he said.

Kennedy, who most recently lived in Santa Fe, N.M., said it is easy to photograph celebrities but difficult to portray the individual behind the celebrity image.

"Celebrities are really used to being photographed all the time and have to do it," he said. "They know the routine, the game and what they need to do and what their looks are. They are really easy to direct, but they are giving you only what their celebrity persona is."

Bringing preconceived ideas of them to the session can get in the way. Kennedy also has noticed that his students sometimes get hung up on how the person is posed and the lighting and forget they are just photographing a person.

"When you let go of the technical and compositional aspects and all the other stuff we as photographers bring to the party, that's when the real magic starts to happen," Kennedy said. "Nothing I do is sneaky or conniving. The whole secret is making them feel comfortable and approaching it with honesty and without any expectations, and being open to learning whom this person is and what they are about."

Kennedy prefers his photographs to speak for themselves.

"I just make pictures, and hopefully some of them touch other people or teach a little bit or make you feel something," he said. "That's what they are about."

Photographer L. Gregory Scheer likes when people ask him about his photographs and what nature - his primary subject - means to him.

He takes most of his photographs on his 57-acre farm in Iowa.

"Almost all of my time is spent there because that's where I enjoy being the most. I live there, work there and take photographs there," Scheer said. "I'm trying to express feelings of some of the stuff I get from the woods."

Scheer said he takes those photographs and manipulates them in the Adobe Photoshop computer program because it releases him of all the boundaries he is accustomed to through photography alone.

"I start with one image and you can see it change into something you don't recognize. It's just infinite what you can do with it," he said. "You sometimes surprise yourself because you end up in a different place where you never thought your would be. That's where inspiration for me comes."

Scheer tries to portray the rhythms of nature, which he said are always changing, moving, growing and dying.

"The science of nature itself is there to enjoy and experience it," he said. "I show visually what I can't explain."

Kennedy and Scheer will show some of their work as part of the "Art From the Road" exhibit at Studio Gallery 27.

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