Multimedia Laboratory

Interview with photographer | Geof Kern

Why do you take photos?

I fell in love with photography as a teenager in the 1960’s and basically have been making pictures ever since. I don’t have any plans to stop.

Describe your start in photography.

I found a book, Classic Cinema by Parker Tyler, at the corner drugstore.  This was before photography as art everywhere, this was before the movie Blow Up, this was before PBS, this was when people had hi-fi consoles, this was a long time ago, and I was a teenager in a little quiet suburb of Los Angeles mowing lawns and writing poetry.

Who are some of your favorite photographers and why do you admire their work?

Again, as young man, you fall in love.  You learn from other people.  Not always photographers in my case, but I remember buying Paris Vogue all the time in the 70’s for Guy Bourdin.  Bill Brandt, when I discovered him.  Harry Shunk, with his picture of Yves Klein jumping off the building that caused such a sensation in Paris.  My wife called him up and asked if he would sell a print of that picture, he said sure, and I have it.  Contemporary photographers, I mean there are many whose work I like.  Larry Fink, Koto Bolofo, Robert Wilson, not that he’s a photographer really.  I haven’t made the definitive list, there are always some names at the tip of your tongue any given moment.

What is your greatest experience as a photographer?

I like it when I get letters from people all over the place saying how a picture touched their lives.  One of the awards I like the best is from a Rotary Club in Pittsburgh, a kind of wooden plaque with a gold gavel and gears on it, given to me for photographing their native son August Wilson for Esquire.  I value that award as much as I do saying my work is in a museum.

What equipment do you prefer to use and why?

Equipment is not so much important to me.  I use the standard stuff everyone else uses.  I view the equipment as the bridge, not the destination so I don’t dwell on it much.

Describe your editing process (i.e. How do you go about selecting, retouching and printing your photographs?)

Strange question.  Well, I can pick out pretty quick which frames I like.  I usually know when I’m shooting, it’s that little voice.  It’s that little voice when you’re looking at files on a computer.  Which one?  I tend to not overshoot, and I tend to pick quickly.  Why labor, over-think it.  As far as retouching, I am not a retoucher so I have a real retoucher.  I often do comps myself to show the client kind of what it might look like, if it’s that kind of picture, and this is also a tool as a reference for my real retoucher.  I think this question might be for gallery photographers.  Because normally I don’t print my pictures.  For the limited editions I have had printed for a gallery in Los Angeles there is a place that specializes in that.  Some day I would like to try photogravure.  And of course I used to print all of my own black and white prints before the year 2000.  I have an archive room full of them.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future regarding photography?

I want to do work that is not necessarily commercial applicable.  I should have started this a long time ago.  But I have been a working photographer because I need to work.  Maybe some time will free up in the near future.

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