A quick show of hands—if you’re a veteran freelance photographer are you currently bored out of your mind? Many of the metro’s most renowned shutterbugs have been cooped up during quarantine and are going a little stir crazy. We asked some of KC’s most prolific photographers to go way, way into their archives and find us an old-school (or new-school) pic with a story behind it.
Another quick show of hands—how many veteran freelance photographers jumped at our opportunity to dig out an old negative? All the ones we asked.
“With any lull in business—winter or pandemic—I turn to scanning negatives. A friend gave me her father’s negatives. He was a part-time photographer who worked, primarily, in 4 by 5 black-and-white during the years 1949 to 1952. There are six boxes of negatives total. So far, I have scanned three. It’s a slice of life, really. Baseball team photos, dances, parties, weddings—each scan is a kind of adventure.
Probably the most interesting find is a photo of Lawrence Welk dancing with his Champagne Lady Roberta Linn. It was part of a series photographer Herb Harper shot during a Welk appearance at the Pla-Mor Ballroom in 1950. When not scanning the Harper negatives, I’m digitizing my own work from the 80s and 90s prior to my conversion to digital. Really no income to be had, but it does pass the time, brings back memories, and preserves a body of work.” –Photographer David Remley
“In Lexington, Missouri, haircuts were $3.00. ‘Any long hair’ was $3.50. It was up to the barber to decide how long hair had to be to incur the extra charge. It seems that was his way of showing disdain for the ‘hippie’ hairstyles of the 1970s and early 1980s. The magazine rack held a copy of an outdated Motor Trend magazine with the 1976 Toyota Celica on the cover. Joe Namath was clearly idolized by the barber, and the walls were decorated with pennants and pictures of the Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, USC Trojans, and others. I shot this while working on a story about Missouri River towns that had been bypassed by construction of a new Highway 24.” – Photographer Tom Strongman
“Quarantine gave me some time to go back to scanning negatives from a project I started 20 years ago. In 2000, I met a lady in Columbia, Missouri, who asked me if I was related to the Dikemans who once had a park. She loaned me photographs and I made copy negatives. What a small-world moment!
Dikeman’s Park was a private park that my grandfather created out of part of a homestead farm near Royal, Nebraska in 1920. The park had a 9-hole golf course, a few cabins to rent, a concrete swimming pool filled with cold water from Verdigris Creek, a stocked fishing pond, a ball diamond, and an outdoor bandstand and dance floor. The park was open until 1941 when WW2 caused the decline of the park’s business. Here’s a photo of the swimming pool that my grandfather built in the middle of nowhere in Nebraska.” – Photographer Deanna Dikeman
“A baby and two chimps walk into a bar …
Well, you know the rest.
COVID containment for me has meant rediscovering antique photographs made during the early stages of my old-fashioned, fire-eating-press-photographer-wannabe career. Take this shot of the human bambino and two chimps of nearly the same vintage, likeness struck 1970-ish. They got on quite well, actually. Played with each other’s toys, chewed on each other’s feet.
Back in the day when our beloved KC Zoo did not have a baby animal care facility, the youngins’ were kept in the home of Zoo-meisters Jan and John Armstrong. As part of some experiment I have long forgotten, Jan and a colleague got the two primate species together. The why and wherefore was way above my pay grade. But it made for a fun photo op.” – Photographer Roy Inman
“I started photographing flowers as a simple exercise to master the use of my new radio-controlled flashes and the controller. But my flower photos were not much different from all the flower photos out there. I wanted something different. I stumbled on freezing flowers and found the resulting photos interesting.
So earlier this year, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and my work as a freelance photographer disappeared, photographing frozen flowers turned into a personal project. Each flower reacts differently and as the ice melts the composition and effects change. The result is ‘Flowers from my Freezer,’ an ever-changing study in composition and apparent movement in still life subjects.” – Photographer Susan Pfannmuller
“This COVID thing totally erased my calendar from March to mid-July and gave me an early taste of what retirement might be like. With time on my hands and ten multi-terabit hard drives from old shoots, I found myself going through old images and either reworking or rediscovering them. This image was a rediscovery from a few years back where three of us wandered around Independence after dark working on our use of flash and night photography skills. Going forward into real retirement, I don’t want to redo old files so my wife and I bought a camper van. New adventures await. Well, more landscapes and fewer people for me.” – Photographer Jim Bob
“COVID-19 struck at an opportune time for me—well, at least as far as my business goes. The bulk of my work is outdoor portraits and I don’t book many shoots in February or March. But as the weeks dragged into months and every closet was cleaned, the office re-organized, even a new logo designed, my motivation left me, and I craved creating new work. Sorting all my images into categories was still left undone, but it would probably take a decade of shutdowns for me to dive into that necessary but hated task.
The closest I came to that was searching for specific photos for a project when I came upon this 2007 image that I titled ‘Doggy Door’—a multiple exposure shot with my beloved Holga. (Where even is that camera now?) Finding this forgotten image was like finding a small treasure and has created an interest to keep searching. There is a bright side to everything. And with enough isolation time, my files will become a library of efficiency—in my mind!” – Photographer Kathy Wismer