MPR News feature

As a long-time listener and support of NPR, I am excited to share Tim Nelson’s article: “Say cheese curds! State Fair champion animals celebrated with fine art photograph” published by MPR News on August 30, 2019. I enjoyed my time at the fair with Tim!

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Here we are at the “selfie” wall at the MPR booth at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair:

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Legacy Matters podcast interview

Thank you to Sam Devine, James Holmberg, and Sarah Anderson for hosting me on Episode 48 of the Legacy Matters podcast which went live this week. We spoke about tricks behind the Commemorative Artwork for the 2019 Minnesota State Fair, inspirations from the history of photography and animal husbandry, and why legacy matters (the title of the podcast, of course). The four of us had a wonderful conversation, filled with lots of good laughs as well as insight into my fine art practice.

Listen to this Legacy Matters podcast interview, Episode 48: R. J. Kern, for a few good laughs and insight into my working process as a fine-art photographer in MInneapolis.

Listen to this Legacy Matters podcast interview, Episode 48: R. J. Kern, for a few good laughs and insight into my working process as a fine-art photographer in MInneapolis.

Critical Mass 2019 Top 200

I’m honored to be among Photolucida’s Critical Mass 2019 Top 200. The group of fine-art photographers juried in this group celebrates the pursuit of creative photographic excellence while engaging new audiences.

Supreme Champion Chicken Male / Female Pairing, 2018 Minnesota State Fair  from the series  The Best of the Best . Salt print over archival pigment print, 20 x 24 inch sheet size, Ed of 5 + 2 AP.

Supreme Champion Chicken Male / Female Pairing, 2018 Minnesota State Fair from the series The Best of the Best. Salt print over archival pigment print, 20 x 24 inch sheet size, Ed of 5 + 2 AP.

PDN Photo of the Day feature

The Best of the Best was featured on PDN’s Photo of the Day: "Kern points out that when the contributions of chance are thrown in, animal breeding and photography are endeavors that remind us we are not always in control. For example, two champions do not guarantee champion offspring. And in the game of photography, you don’t always know what is going to happen inside your frame.”

PDN Photo of the Day featuring work by R. J. Kern,  Supreme Champion Turkey Male / Female Pair, 2018 Minnesota State Fair  from the series  The Best of the Best.

PDN Photo of the Day featuring work by R. J. Kern, Supreme Champion Turkey Male / Female Pair, 2018 Minnesota State Fair from the series The Best of the Best.

Star Tribune feature

On August 18, 2019, the Star Tribune published the feature article, “R. J. Kern photographs 'best' animals for Minnesota State Fair,” by Alicia Eler. CLICK HERE TO READ FULL ARTICLE >>

“When he photographs them, they become significant portraits, almost like archetypes,” said Deborah Ultan, curator at the Gorman Rare Art Book Collection at the University of Minnesota. “R.J. bridges the history of photography with the present, and I think he beautifully does that in a way that is so seamless that you feel like you’re looking at something old and new at the same time. ”

R.J. Kern ‘s “The Best of the Best” features portraits of livestock from the 2018 State Fair made using a 19th-century bronze-tinted salt photo technique in the  Star Tribune  feature, August 18, 2019.

R.J. Kern ‘s “The Best of the Best” features portraits of livestock from the 2018 State Fair made using a 19th-century bronze-tinted salt photo technique in the Star Tribune feature, August 18, 2019.


Acquisition by the Minnesota Historical Society

The COLLECTOR’S EDITIONs of The Sheet and the Goats (Ed 44/50) and The Unchosen Ones (Ed 7/20) was acquired this week by the Minnesota Historical Society in St Paul, MN. Special thanks to Patrick K. Coleman (pictured) and Jennifer Huebscher for their support. This is the first institution in Minnesota to collect either award-winning book projects. The projects were supported in part by the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant (2016, 2018). Images from the projects were featured in National Geographic magazine (November 2017). A solo exhibition of the fine-art portrait series, The Unchosen Ones, opens December 6, 2019 at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, ND.

Minnesota Historical Society Acquisitions Librarian Patrick K. Coleman (left) and visual artist R. J. Kern (right) display recent acquisitions to the permanent collection. Photo by Lori L. Williamson.

Minnesota Historical Society Acquisitions Librarian Patrick K. Coleman (left) and visual artist R. J. Kern (right) display recent acquisitions to the permanent collection. Photo by Lori L. Williamson.

Exhibition at Burnet Fine Art & Advisory

The Best of the Best represents my second solo exhibition at Burnet Fine Art & Advisory in Wayzata, Minnesota. The exhibition runs August 8 - 28, 2019 with an opening reception held Thursday, August, 6:00–8:00pm. I will offer an artist talk on Wednesday, August 21, 6:30–8:00pm.

The series coincides with a specially commissioned commemorative artwork for the 2019 Minnesota State Fair. The prints—illustrated with a classic photographic processing including hand-coated salt prints prints over archival pigment prints—marks and celebrates this milestone.

The Best of the Best,  salt prints over archival pigment prints, 20 x 24 inches, 2019

The Best of the Best, salt prints over archival pigment prints, 20 x 24 inches, 2019

Acquisition by Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art

With the support of Curator Christine Renc-Carter and the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art Board of Directors, I’m proud to announce a purchase acquisition of the COLLECTOR’S EDITIONs of The Unchosen Ones (Ed 6 of 20) into the permanent collection at the Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

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In addition, the following two prints have been accessioned into the museum’s permanent collection: Josilin and Escapé, Benton County Fair, Minnesota, 2016 from the series The Unchosen Ones and Escapé (pron. es cahp é), Benton County, Minnesota, USA (2016) from the series Out to Pasture.

Writes Renc-Carter, “Your work will be a significant addition to the museum’s collection of contemporary photography and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to embark on new territory to develop our artist book collection.”

Escapé (pron. es cahp é), Benton County, Minnesota, USA  from the series  Out to Pasture  (2016).

Escapé (pron. es cahp é), Benton County, Minnesota, USA from the series Out to Pasture (2016).

Josilin and Escapé, Benton County Fair, Minnesota, 2016  from the series  The Unchosen Ones (2016).

Josilin and Escapé, Benton County Fair, Minnesota, 2016 from the series The Unchosen Ones (2016).

This marks the second museum collection in Florida of work from these critically-acclaimed series. The Museum of Fine Arts, St Petersburg acquired work in 2018.

Behind-the-scenes time-lapse 2019 Commemorative Art

Check out this behind-the-scenes time-lapse of 2019 Minnesota State Fair Official Commemorative Artwork we created. This year's commemorative art is titled "Minnesota State Fair Supreme Champion Pairings from 2018." I appreciate the wonderful support of the staff at the Minnesota State Fair and the opportunity to collaborate with Freestyle Productions to help edit the time-lapse.

Commemorative poster and Minnesota State Fair Foundation prints >>

The commemorative poster and a limited number of signed prints and other merchandise featuring the art are available for purchase at https://www.mnstatefair.org/commemorative-art/, and will also be available during the fair at State FairWear Gift Shops and Bargain Book and State Fair Poster Carts on the fairgrounds. Proceeds will support the Minnesota State Fair Foundation 501(c)(3) mission to preserve and improve State Fair buildings, fairgrounds and educational programs. 

Learn more about the commemorative art and the Minnesota State Fair: mnstatefair.org/commemorative-art/

Revolver magazine feature

Revolver magazine (April/ May 2019) features 13 photographs featured in The Sheep and the Goats, much of work not previously published. The design and text compliments the work. It was wonderful working with Jimmy Hubbard and I appreciate for the opportunity to collaborate! Hits news stands May 14 >>

Revolver magazine features (April / May 2019) the photographs of R. J. Kern

Revolver magazine features (April / May 2019) the photographs of R. J. Kern

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Three covers for the April/ May 2019 issue to choose from.

Three covers for the April/ May 2019 issue to choose from.

LENSCRATCH Juried Exhibition

I’m proud to be a juror of my first juried exhibition at Lenscratch for a topic near and dear to my heart: the 2019 Ordinary Animals Exhibition. Congratulations to Janet Holmes for being first place winner.

My juror statement:

“Lewis Hine said a wonderful thing a long time ago: “We should be photographing two things. The things that should be put right and the things that should be appreciated.” David Hurn used to have this quote on his wall when he was teaching. When I learned of this, it made me appreciate that a Magnum photographer such as David Hurn didn’t have to be a war photographer to create an important image. There are subjects more on the domestic side that interest me more. Hope, humor, empathy are qualities I value in a photograph.

I kept the Lewis Hine quote in the back of my head when I was reviewing the 100+ submissions for the “Ordinary Creatures” online exhibition on Lenscratch. I realize the challenge of submitting work to juried exhibitions with a single digital file. Yet, I realized that challenge is a good one: we should submit work that becomes a little teaser, beckoning the viewer to see more, ask more questions, and to think. In addition, I wanted the pixels on my laptop screen in front of me to warm my heart. I enjoyed work that was thoughtfully balanced composition and light with a moment. I’m a sucker for long-term, personal projects filled with warmth and humanity. If there was a hint of this I could see in the work, it became a winner in my book.”

Click here to view the work >>

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ČILICHILI magazine feature

Czechoslovakia’s arts & culture magazine, ČILICHILI, published a selection of my work from “The Unchosen Ones” and Divine Animals: The Bovidae” series, in the March 2019 issue.

ČILICHILI magazine feature (March 2019) features the photographs by R. J. Kern.

ČILICHILI magazine feature (March 2019) features the photographs by R. J. Kern.

Masur Museum of Art Exhibition

Four works from my series, The Unchosen Ones, were selected for the 56th Annual Juried Competition Exhibition, juried by Catherine Futter, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The juried group exhibition at the Masur Museum of Art, Monroe, LA runs Feb 28 – May 11, 2019. Futter’s curatorial statement reads:

This exhibition focused primarily on IDENTITY— how identity is assigned, constructed, fluid, rejected, reclaimed, and embraced. Some works are portraits that represent a sitter’s outward style and convey an inner attitude. Others are more enigmatic, more mysterious. They ask us to question our own identites past, present, and future. How do we see ourselves? How do we want to be seen?

A reception with the juror's talk and prize announcements held Thursday, April 25th, 5:30-7:30pm.

Special thanks to Lindsay Kearney, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Masur Museum of Art, for providing installation photographs of the work. I am honored to have my work exhibited with the participating artists. It has been wonderful to work with her and her team!

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Participating Artists:

Elizabeth Abaravich, CA; Abe Abraham, NY; Trenton Brown, GA; Richard Buswell, MT; Paula Campbell, TN; Norm Diamond, TX; M. M. Dupay, OH; Leslie Elliottsmith, LA; Farimah Eshraghi, MA; Amy Faggard, TX; Ashley Gardner, AR; Gale Gibbs, TX; Stephanie Gonzalez, TX; Sarah Granberg, OR; Richard Greene, CA; Crummy Gummy, FL; Gao Hang, TX; Lewinale Havette, GA; Dianne Hebbert, NY; Pato Hebert, CA; Ming Ying Hong, MS; Jennifer Hoskins, SC; Shreepad Joglekar, KS; R. J. Kern, MN; Noelle King, NY; David Knox, LA; Sena Kwon, NY; Joshua Littlefield, MD; Gabi Magaly, TX; A.M. Martens, IL; Andy Mattern, OK; Corinne McAuley, AZ; Daniel Melo, CA; Rebecca Miller, MO; Jason Nelson, LA; Jim Pearson, IL; Sandi Pfeifer, FL; Nikii Berry Richey, TN; Evie Richner, TN; Sharon Shapiro, VA; Annisty Thompson, AL; Chad Thompson, SC; Tonja Torgerson, IN; Rhonda Urdang, AZ; Kevin Vanek, MS; Jiawei Zhao, NY


6th International Open Call, juried by Aline Smithson

The Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts announced the awards for the 6th International Open Call, juried by Aline Smithson (founder of LENSCRATCH). I am excited and honored to share Kol and Annabell, Anoka County Fair, Minnesota, 2016 from my series, The Unchosen Ones, received second place!

Looking through the names of the 74 photographers selected, I’m proud to be listed with these friends and colleagues. I’ve enjoyed getting to know these artists and their personal projects (and some even swapping prints, including 1st place winner Eric Kunsman for his print, 4th of July, 2014 – Palmyra, NY). The exhibition is on view through Friday, March 15th, 2019 and is free to the public.

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Little known fact: I first visited RISD in Providence in 1994 and considered enrolling in their BFA program, as my high school teacher Ricker Winsor graduated there and worked with Harry Callahan). I decided to pursue a liberal arts degree at Colgate University, however, I am excited to exhibit work in the same small town that inspired many great photographers).

Commemorative Artist for 2019 Minnesota State Fair

I'm honored to announce that I have been commissioned as the first-ever fine-art photographer chosen to create the official MN State Fair art. The MN State Fair Commemorative Art unveiling event will be Thursday, June 6, 2019 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m in St Paul. The original art will be on display in the Fine Arts Center during the 12-day run of the 2019 State Fair (Aug 22 - Sept 2). For more information about the fair’s commemorative art, visit mnstatefair.org/art.

I can’t reveal much about the final artwork , I offer this sneak peek at my working process to create one of my most ambitious commissioned photographs:

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Thank you to Pamela Espeland for her announcement in MinnPost linked here >>

“R. J. Kern named 2019 State Fair Commemorative Artist,” by Pamela Espeland, MinnPost, dated Jan 30, 2019.

“R. J. Kern named 2019 State Fair Commemorative Artist,” by Pamela Espeland, MinnPost, dated Jan 30, 2019.