My earliest memory: The New York State World Fair at Flushing Meadows. My mom and grandmother are wheeling me around in my stroller, and I’m stunned at what I see: the geometry of the massive round pavilion, there’s Mickey Mouse in red suspenders – he’s waving at me, I’m on a boat ride in a tunnel and little puppets on strings dance and sing – it’s a small world after all! The color, the sound, the energy of this place – it’s the most spectacular experience of my 24-month life.
As I recall my earliest memories from 1964/65, and each memory since, every detail pops in high definition and I live it again.
Age 3. We’ve just moved to Michigan and my father and I drive to the supermarket. A few days later my mother and I go, but she’s new to the area and doesn’t know her way around. I’ve only been to the store once, but I remember the street signs and buildings, and turn by turn, I direct her all the way.
Age 10. Moving from Chicago back to New York in a yellow Ford Maverick, the smell of hot vinyl seats in the summer sun, and the view of Ohio countryside out my backseat window. “Don’t Rock the Boat” by the Hues Corporation jams on the radio, and it’s the first time in my life I hear that groove. To this day, every time that song plays, I’m looking out the window and smelling the hot black vinyl seats of my parents’ yellow Ford.
In the moment, and in memory, I experience all senses as entwined. I don’t just see something – I live it in hyper reality, with tastes, sounds, colors, smells and feelings mingled. So when I take a picture, I’m not satisfied with a simple snapshot of the scene: I want to recreate the immediacy of the moment. So I saturate colors, amplify light, and sharpen lines to infuse the image with this super-sensory perspective.
My Instagram images and metal art prints are bright and crisp because that’s how I see the world, in outstanding detail. I’m a hyper-noticer and I expose every angle – just as I did as an 8-year old when I got my first film cartridge camera and burned through the 12 exposures with 12 perspectives of the same model airplane.
It’s no wonder I love photographs. My Dad was an avid picture-taker, too, and slide projector enthusiast. Together we’d relive our memories, cast large on the living room wall. He’d share the stories in photos from before my birth – meeting my mother in the 50s, soldiering in the army in the 40s. I still treasure his collection of thousands of slides and the history they tell.
Like my father, I collect my life story in photograph. I take pictures as a personal imperative, and as a profession. Since my early adventures as a snap-happy 8-year old, I’ve been obsessed with taking pictures. But it wasn’t until age 20 that I could claim to be a real photographer, with gear worthy of the title.
It’s 1983 and I’m at a Bobby & the Midnites concert on Long Island with my friend Peter. I’ve borrowed Peter’s mom’s Olympus OM-1 to get front row shots of the band – Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Bobby Cochran, Billy Cobhan on drums. It’s electrifying. Next weekend, same theater, I’m upfront and in the aisles again with Peter’s mom’s camera and Carlos Santana, and immediately after that I buy my first 35mm film camera to continue this picture-taking passion.
My professional photography career begins in earnest in the mid-90s. I’ve graduated from massage school, and I’m looking to land a gig as an in-house stress-relief therapist at a graphics company. I mention I do photography, too, and while they don’t require my massage skills, they hire me to take stock photos for their advertising division. I stage and shoot edge-to-edge background imagery for newspaper ads: heaps of autumn leaves, a thousand nuts and bolts, and seasonal scenes that prove tricky to source: where do you find candy canes in June? Or marshmallow Easter peeps in August?
I love the challenge of photographing anything, so I say yes to every opportunity and teach myself what I don’t know as I go. I shoot weddings, runway fashion shows, barbecues, and the backstage action of Broadway musicals. I photograph architecture, interior design, consumer products, famous people and families.
In 2001 I buy one of the first digital cameras and begin to amass an assortment of expensive lenses. I now have piles of equipment to match my decades of experience.
I can confidently photograph anything with whatever camera I’ve got at hand – and yet these days, I consistently choose to capture everyday moments with the convenience of my iPhone. With a few special snap-on lenses, my whole setup tucks into my pocket. Anywhere I am in the world, I’m ready to greet the moment as it is and take its picture. No setup, no staging. Just an instant color correction or quick crop, and then as Insta-Ken, I post my images to Instagram.
Sharing my pictures on Instagram, I invite my viewers to follow my vision in real-time. I snap a scene in my Brooklyn neighborhood on my way to buy bread. I share the sights of NYC as a tourist in my own town. I travel far and often, with my wife Michelle, and welcome witnesses to enjoy the stories of our world wanderings.
My Insta-Ken Instagram collection is my own slideshow of life as I live it, in stunning color and contrast. I print these images on high gloss metal, so they pop off the wall and pull you, all senses turned on, into the moment and its memory.Experience the Collection