We asked Jim McKinney a few questions so that we could get to know more about him and his art!
Tell us about your exhibit at Nance Galleries.
The photographs selected for this exhibit are diverse as to time and location. They are images from the 1960’s, 1970’s and the last decade of people in their environments. The diversity of locale ranges from Thailand to Egypt, Turkey, Italy, France, Cambodia, and Mexico as well as New Harmony and Newburgh Indiana.
All of the pictures have people as their subject who are being captured in their own locale – be that on a boat in Cambodia, under the coliseum in Rome, or weaving silk in Thailand. And, most important, these are not candid snapshots but pictures where the subject is engaged with the photographer.
As in any photograph, there are three participants: the subject, the photographer and the viewer of the picture. The goal of these pictures is to express an intimacy of the subject person to the viewer.
It is my hope the photographer is not a perceived component of the process. Rather, the viewer becomes emotionally attached to the essence of the picture.
What inspired you to become a photographer?
A silly story is the answer to this question. When in grade school, I was taken to art lessons in drawing at the Evansville Museum. There were both girls and boys in these classes. As the classes progressed in the following weeks, fewer boys were coming and more girls. Finally one Saturday I went and discovered I was the only boy there. That ended art lessons at the museum for me. At an age too early to understand the differences in the sexes as we all discover in our teenage years, I decided that I did not want to be a sissy in an all girl activity. Of course a few years later I would have pined away at the opportunity, but then I was too young to know.
Not too much later I picked up a camera and discovered all my creative interests could be satisfied. I never looked back.
Do you have a favorite photograph or shooting experience?
Yes, it happened this summer. (Ask him about his experience at the art show Oct 29)
What is it like taking pictures of strangers? Do you ever get a chance to interact with them, or do you snap and go?
I have absolutely no problem taking pictures of a stranger. Because approaching a person to shoot them requires your becoming an acquaintance before you start clicking. In other words, by the time you shoot, the former stranger is an engaged subject. A quick snap and run is an intrusion and violation of a person.
Generally people enjoy knowing that someone appreciates them and wants to capture their essence. This summer I was shooting in Battery Park, New York City. There was a black man who was fishing off a pier. He had a great facial structure expressing a strong demeanor. While holding my camera, we struck up a conversation and I discovered his name was Christian from Barbados. He had been in the US for 14 years and desired to become a citizen. He told me about his work, his passion for the US and his study of US history. All of this while he continued to fish and I – with his permission – started to shoot. His picture is in the show.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming photographers?
Keep in mind that a good photographer is not taking pictures. They are capturing something – an essence, a scene, a defining moment, or an insight – in a unique manner that expresses something about the subject others would not have seen if it hadn’t been for the photographer’s portrayal.
Today’s cameras are outstanding. It is easy to snap a picture that will be technically great. But a photographer who wishes to excel has to take the tool in hand (the camera) and use it to create an image that causes the viewer to pause and be engaged. The best photographs illuminate what others fail to see.