When did you ï¬rst know that you wanted to be a photographer?
Early. My ï¬rst camera was my mom’s old Brownie Hawkeye, which I found in the family attic. You had to manually wind it, which made for interesting results if you’d forget to advance the ï¬lm. I never had the ‘Aha! darkroom moment’ that many photographers seem to have, but seeing those accidental double exposures made an early impression. In high school I was lucky to have as a mentor Heinz Kluetmeier, the Sports Illustrated photographer, whose daughters went to my school. He was incredibly kind and showed me how exciting editorial work could be. In college, there was a brief period when I thought about graphic design (I eventually earned a degree in it), but that didn’t last long. I started as a newspaper photographer and later as the photographer on staff at two city magazines, all of which was great training. I’ve been freelancing for seven years now and making artwork for about the past ten. I feel very fortunate to have found something early on that I continue to love.
How can an editor be the most helpful when giving you an assignment?
The editorial portrait and travel jobs I do are fairly small affairs. I’m not a big-production, 3-assistant, there’s-a-budget-for-catering, kind of photographer. I love the freedom of working with just the subject and my assistant Jessica, or on my own during travel assignments. So most of what I see and ï¬nd on location hasn’t been predetermined or art directed, and part of my job is on-site problem solving. Knowing that the photo editor trusts me to make something happen is an important thing. There are so many variables before we arrive at a shoot, and if I feel like the editor has conï¬dence in me, it helps a great deal. And a happy email if they like the photos is always nice.
Who would your dream subject be?
What I love most is meeting and photographing interesting, real people. Recently, I’ve photographed the world’s leading stem cell researcher, an 8-year-old fresh produce mogul, the chef from the restaurant that Gourmet called the best in America, a woman holding a human brain, a man holding a 300 million-year-old dinosaur bone, a champion ballroom dancer in her late 80’s, and a morel mushroom hunter named Soda Popp. Those kind of subjects are hard to beat.
Wait, would I seem shallow if I changed my answer to Philip Seymour Hoffman?
What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?
In a few years, dig a hole in the backyard and put what little savings you have in there – it’ll be safe to dig out again in about 2010. And you’re about to have a ï¬rst date with a woman named Marilu. You don’t know it yet, but she’s the one.
Are you currently working on any personal project?
I have several current ï¬ne art projects, including one called Within Reach, which looks at the environment of home in detail. It started as something of a visual exercise, but has become more important to me over time. I’m interested in the idea of examining the every day environment within close range, which is usually the easiest to overlook. And this winter, I made a series of portraits of protesters at the Wisconsin state capital, who gathered daily by the tens of thousands to ï¬ght our newly elected, small-minded governor.
And something I’ve been really passionate about is the website collect.give . I founded the site in December 2009 as a way for photographers to donate money to charities they love – by selling a small, affordable limited edition of prints. Prices range from $40-100 and photographers pledge 100% of the proceeds to a charity they choose. To date, we’ve raised over $25,000 for a really interesting and diverse list of organizations. The photographers include people like David Leventi, Manjari Sharma, Shane Lavalette, Kelly Shimoda, Matt Eich, Jane Fulton Alt and Jesse Burke.
Kevin is based in Milwaukee. See more, here.