Through the lens of Kevin Boldenow’s cameras, Florida is more than bright colors and palm trees.
Choosing the old-school method of photography, Boldenow snaps shots of Florida landscapes with black and white and infrared film, which isn’t always easy to find.
“I was disappointed when Kodak stopped making infrared film,” Boldenow said. “I went out and bought as much as I could. I only have 15 rolls left. I did a lot of color work before, but I hadn’t really honed my craft until I played with black and white film.”
Boldenow has been taking pictures since childhood, but never thought to show his work until 2001.
“I was showing my work to friends and one thing led to another, and I applied to a juried art show and got first place,” he said. “The photo was of a huge oak tree with the light coming up over the branches.”
Boldenow remembers taking the award-winning picture.
“I had that feeling that this was going to be special,” he said.
Since submitting that photo, Boldenow has continued to submit work and win awards such as the 2004 South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship Grant for Visual and Media Artists.
The artist has lived in Virginia, New Jersey, Texas and Michigan, where Boldenow grew up, but his portfolio mainly contains photographs of Florida. He moved to South Florida in 1996.
Inspired by Ansel Adams, Boldenow’s favorite subject to shoot is landscapes. He also occasionally will do figurative work—however his models are typically shot outdoors, with a rich landscape in the background. He regularly takes day-trips to discover new places and build his collection of photos.
“I’m drawn to nature,” he said. “I love to photograph trees, because they each have a personality to me.”
Even after dozens of exhibitions in Florida—including one this week at Pensacola Museum of Art— photography is not what pays the artist’s bills, although Boldenow wishes it was.
“It’s been a life-long dream to make a career out of my photography,” he said. “But it’s hard for a professional photographer. And I’m not the only one who has said that. Now, you don’t even need a camera to take pictures.”
It’s true, film photography has been declining for a while. And even before the end of Kodak and Polaroid as we know them, photography has had a long history of being a disregarded art medium.
“Photography has had a rocky past in its relationship to museums,” admitted Alexis Leader, director of curatorial affairs at Pensacola Museum of Art. “The PMA did not even accession a work of photography into its Permanent Collection until 1991. However, in past decades its clear appeal to crowds and integrity as an art form has become undeniable.”
Even though Boldenow is drawn to the old-school approach to photography, he has embraced newer technologies, adding a digital camera to his arsenal of cameras, which include an old, medium format, 35 mm and a 6×7 Pentax.
“When I go on a trip, they all go with me,” he said.
Using his digital camera, Boldenow shoots as if he were still using a film camera, not wasting one shot.
“I like to get as close to perfection as I can,” he said.
With digital photography comes the use of Photoshop, which the artist uses sparingly.
“You always have to sharpen digital pictures,” he said. “But I prefer to do as little alterations as possible.”
What the digital age has taught Boldenow is to embrace color. Now, he says only 85 percent of his photographs are black and white.
Photography may be changing and it may not be a full-time career, but it is Boldenow’s passion. With each new exhibit or award, he is excited to share his work with the public and engage with his audience. At his April 10 reception at PMA, the artist will be there to share a few words and even have a Q&A.
“These images are an ideal fit for the PMA because they combine the beauty and dramatic impact of Florida’s landscapes with the engaging and ever-evolving medium of photography,” Leader said.
When it comes to sharing his photography, Boldenow said there isn’t necessarily an underlying message.
“I just want to capture something beautiful,” he said. “But I do hope people walk away with the sense of peace. I’ve been told by a few people that they can picture themselves in a particular photo. That’s very gratifying to me.”
SACRED LANDSCAPES: THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF KEVIN BOLDENOW
WHEN: On Display April 10-May 31; Opening Reception 5:30-7 p.m. April 10
WHERE: Pensacola Museum of Art, 407 S. Jefferson St.