The Best of the Best project was published in BETA Developments in Photography (Issue 33) released Oct 6, 2019. The online magazine is focused on the work of contemporary photographers across the globe and features the work of four photographers per quarterly issue. Special thanks to Jeff Moorfoot who I enjoyed meeting at the Photolucida 2019 portfolio review.
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!
Here we are at the “selfie” wall at the MPR booth at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair:
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.
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.”
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. ”
Katy Read highlights the State Fair commemorative piece in today’s Star Tribune, “Portrait of champion livestock is this year's Minnesota State Fair highlighted art.” I appreciated Katy’s interview and feature in print:
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 >>
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.
A two-part series on Fstoppers highlights my work, written by Eli Drefuss:
I am honored that a selection from my series, "The Unchosen Ones," was exhibited as part of the 2018 Yixian International Photography Festival in Anhui, China. Guo Jing curated the exhibition for international section at the festival, one of the most influential festivals in China. I met Guo Jing during a portfolio review at Photolucida 2017 in Portland and she exhibited "The Sheep and the Goats" in China last year as well. In addition to the Chinese photographers, there were over exhibitions from over 50 photographers from the United States, France, Russia, Australia, Italy, Egypt, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Singapore. The exhibition exhibited more than 3,200 works. View gallery >>
Photographs Courtesy Yixian International Photography Festival. Pictured left to right in group picture: Fang Huanran, Deputy President of China Photo Press; Guo Jing, Host of Yixian International Photo Festival Opening Ceremony; Hu Ning, Vice chariman of the Political Consultative Conference of Huangshan City; Reza De Hadi, a French photographic artist; and Fang Huanran, Vice President of China Photographic Newspaper.
Special thanks to Chris Kovacs who connected with my work as part of Critical Mass Top 50, he has featured my work in the November / December 2018 issue of Mono Chroma magazine, a wonderful fine art photography resource. I was first introduced to Chris’s work at Classic Photographs LA in 2018 at the Susan Spiritus booth. Also featured: Daniel Garay Arango, Jane Szabo, Brett Leigh Dicks, Keith Ramsdell, Tara Cronin, and Ellen Keith.
The Unchosen Ones series featured with interview in the November / December 2018 issue of Mono Chroma magazine
R. J. Kern’s “The Unchosen Ones” shows a domesticated nature, one that humans and animals symbiotically share. It consists of 31 large color photographs taken at Minnesota county fairs. In front of a dark-gray background, Kern poses young people with a farm animal or two that he or she had entered into livestock competitions at the fairs. The animals are sheep or goats. None of the contestants won, hence the title: They weren’t chosen.
So the title is descriptive. It’s also ironic. Looking at what is clearly an emotional relationship between the creatures, one recognizes a different kind of choosing, of each other. Maybe accepting would be a better word. It’s telling that Kern’s captions usually give the animal’s name as well as the young person’s. There’s a mutuality here, maybe even a duality. This makes for a surpassing sweetness (not sentimentality) and seeming simplicity. Why seeming? There’s an unmistakable, if not clearly articulated, sense of fellow feeling. That fellow feeling finds an ideal counterpart in the combination of respect and curiosity that Kern brings to bear on it.
The Winter issue of Culture features fine-art work from The Unchosen Ones and Out To Pasture series. Lots of goodies in this well-designed magazine devoted to cheese lovers. I’ve enjoyed exploring new ways to engage audiences with my subject matter.
Writes Espeland: "The large, lovely portrait of a young woman and her goat may stop you in your tracks. It’s an image from a series Kern calls “The Unchosen Ones.” Taken from the sidelines at 10 county fairs across Minnesota that lead up to the state fair, they show animals and their young handlers – but losers, not winners. These are not the pairs that will go on to glory at the big fair in the cities. Photographed against a simple gray backdrop, the subjects – children and teenagers, sheep and goats – are lit like old masters. They are luminous and dignified. If this is what losing looks like, maybe it’s not so terrible after all."
On newsstands now, the July/August 2018 of Communication Arts magazine features work from my series, "The Unchosen Ones." The Photography Annual 59 issue is dedicated to featuring images that received an Award of Excellence 2018. Five images that appeared in the self-published book, The Unchosen Ones, were published from the same project featured in National Geographic magazine (November 2017). I'm grateful and honored for the recognition! I've admired the magazine since my high school art classes!
"Eating Buddy, Lake Myvatn, Iceland" along with nine other images from three projects Divine Animals: The Bovidae, Out to Pasture, and The Unchosen Ones are featured on the PDN Photo of the Day to promote the solo exhibition at Klompching Gallery in New York through June 30, 2018. Thank you for the exposure, PDN and wonderful selection of work, Darren Ching!
Writes Coralie Kraft: "Unlike many wildlife photographers who focus on the devastating human impact on the natural world, Kern’s work offers a different, but no less significant, thesis: how have humans shaped and molded these creatures over centuries, and how have these animals impacted our development in turn? "
Aline Smithson features "The Unchosen Ones" book and project along with an interview on April 27, 2018. In the article, I share tips on navigating the fine art waters, lessons I’ve learned, perspectives into my working process, what I learned from my subjects, why I decided to self-publish, what a perfect day looks like and more!