Influences Pt. 2A – David Michael Kennedy

The photograph at the left is by David Michael Kennedy and is titled Tres Tecolotes from June, 1988.

I am the fortunate recipient of so many personal influences that it is going to be difficult to discuss them in a brief manner. Many of the influences go back many years and are complex. Maybe the best way to accomplish this self ascribed task is a list of sorts, in no particular order. There will be more than one installment of part 2.

This is part 2A – David Michael Kennedy

Where to begin… at the beginning! – I knew some of David’s photography long before I met him. His 1975 landscape photograph for Springsteen’s Nebraska album cover perfectly set the stage for the music on arguably Springsteen’s greatest LP. The photographs inside the album, and the ones used for promotion of the album, revealed Springsteen stripped away of any corporate packaging. But I had no clue about who was David Michael Kennedy.

Satch and I were in New Mexico sometime in the late 1980’s, probably 1988, and we stopped in Madrid on the way to Santa Fe. At the Madrid Supply Company we saw some amazing photographs by David Michael Kennedy. Printed in palladium, the prints were beautiful. The light was perfectly captured in all of the photographs. And there were photographs of Springsteen from the Nebraska session. Aha!

When in Santa Fe we went to Andrew Smith’s Gallery and, to our surprise, we were able to view many more of David’s photographs as a big exhibit of his work was going up. (Ask Satch about the Snow Owls). We simply loved everything about the photographs.

The next day we headed out to the Santa Fe Flea Market – which at that time was incredible – and while winding our way through all of the amazing stuff we happened upon a bunch of David’s photographs spread out on a door that was supported by a couple of sawhorses. These photographs were silver prints rather than the palladium prints that we had viewed at Madrid Supply and Andrew Smith’s. David’s former wife, Lucy, was selling work prints to make some money. We were in heaven. Being of modest means we actually found some photographs of David’s that we could afford! Among others that we purchased that day were a portrait of Bob Dylan and an outtake from the Nebraska session. We were on cloud 9 and pretty much hooked.  Over the years, we have been fortunate to acquire more of David’s work.

That same evening, at Andrew Smith’s, there was an opening reception for an exhibit of David’s work. We went but I was too nervous to actually talk to David, I mean, c’mon, he photographed Springsteen for Nebraska, which was pure magic for a Springsteen freak like me – AND he photographed Dylan in a way that I had never seen – I wouldn’t have the nerve to actually talk to him. After a while Satch broke the ice. Like I said, ask her about the Snow Owls photograph. We had a nice short conversation which led us to keeping in touch over the years of triumphs and tribulations.

David’s body of work is nothing short of incredible. His photographs of Native American dancers, portraits and landscapes show the versatility, compassion, sympathy and expertise of his artistry and his craft.

Over the years there are many, many things that I have learned from David while viewing and appreciating his work.

His use of light in combination with the composition of a subject is something that I never tire of.

David’s understanding and skillful use of his tools and materials to present his work completes his vision.

His dedication to what he is artistically pursuing is something to behold. Overcoming tribal politics, his amazing portfolio of photographs of the Eight Northern Pueblo Dancers took a constant effort of seven years. His most recent project, traveling the back roads of the United State for two years in a vintage Airstream camper, photographing a large part of my country that is mostly unseen, and maybe even forgotten, has produced an incredible body of work.

Last year in a telephone conversation, while Satch and I were in Chicago, David encouraged me to try the Holga. I had been using a Diana+ which I still love for multiple exposures. Immediately upon returning home I purchased a Holga which has been my camera of choice from that point on. The Holga was the key for which I had been searching for many years.

After coming off of the road and a couple of brief detours, David now lives in El Rito New Mexico. I really do encourage anyone reading this blog to take the time to delve into David’s work and story on his website. Photographers and fans of great photography will find many articles, photographs and excellent information. And, the blog of his two year road trip, well I’ve used enough superlatives – when you dig into it, you’ll understand.

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