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!
Suzanne Révy reviewed three recently published photography books exploring relationships between humans and animals: The Sheep and the Goats by R.J. Kern, The Shepherd’s Daughter by Clare Benson, and Amelia and the Animals by Robin Schwartz. This is the first official review of my monograph published by Kehrer Verlag and I am honored to be featured along with the work of two accomplished artists, Clare Benson and Robin Schwartz!
David Walker shares my journey in the January 2018 issue of PDN in his article, "R. J. Kern Segues from Weddings to Fine Art." He highlights the importance of mentors such as David Hobby, Joe McNally, Stuart Klipper, David Bram, and Martine Fougeron. Thank you, Mr. Walker!
He writes, "First-place recipient of the Curator’s Choice Award, U.S. photographer R.J. Kern, offers a glimpse into a small subset of society in his series The Unchosen Ones, featuring the children and young adults from farming families who participate in animal contests at Minnesota county fairs, showing off their prized sheep and goats. Kern’s subjects are not the winners at these fairs. They are the losers, whose animals, which have names like Annabell, Hootie, and Doolittle, won no ribbons. In this context, the images seem to take on a deeper resonance, perhaps reflecting the dwindling lifeways of small, family-owned farms in the age of industrial agriculture, a way of life where strong bonds between children and animals may still be of some value. Although a few of Kern’s subjects appear disheartened, there is a sense of pride that comes through several portraits, which transcend categories such as “winner” and “loser.” Kern’s photographs reflect the subjects’ essential characters, deeming them all worthy of attention."
I've always enjoyed reading Lenscratch and appreciate her effort to showcase emerging photographer's work. We met at Photolucida and CLICK120 last month and I always wish I had more time with her. She's also a talented photographer, too. I enjoy her work on my wall at the studio.
Bill Knight reviews highlights from the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, London (November 16, 2017 to February 8, 2018) and published work from The Unchosen Ones project.
"Mr. Hofsós, Skagafjardarsysla, Iceland" along with nine other images from the project Divine Animals: The Bovidae promote my new book, "The Sheep and the Goats" by Kehrer Verlag. Thank you for the exposure, PDN!
I received my Oct 2017 issue of the Royal Photographic Society Journal (Oct 2017) today featuring my work along with a embossed certificate and medal (a real silver medal!!!). The RPS Journal has been published since 1853 and is the oldest continuously published photographic periodical in the world... such a rich tradition. Thank you jurors and the folks at RPS!