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Ken McKeown featured in local publication


Twin City Camera Club President and Life Member Ken McKeown was featured in the December 2009 RSVP Southwest Michigan publication.  In an article titled "It's All in the Eye", by Jane Ammeson, Ken talks about his love of photography.


Cover photo...

Inside on page 8 a full page photo...



Ken McKeown was in grade school when he bought his first camera, a Kodak with bellows that used 620 roll film. Needless to say that was a long time ago, and McKeown - an avid photographer whose work is on display at Western Michigan University's Benton Harbor campus, been featured on the cover of a Michigan tourist magazine, used in ads, on billboards and appeared in the book 2 Cities 24 Hours - has had many cameras since then. But the passion that compelled him to buy a camera and then learn to develop photos has remained alive since.

 "I didn't have a dark room," recalls McKeown of St. Joseph "But a friend of mine's father was into photography. We lived in a little town where no one locked their doors, and I would just walk in and go downstairs and use his dark room. His only qualification was that you had to clean up afterwards.

" It was his friend's father who also drove McKeown to Chicago, where he bought a print box for developing film on the city's chaotic Maxwell Street where vendors sold a plethora of goods, many of them from street stalls. "I paid 10 dollars for it, which was a lot of money, says McKeown of the print box. "I didn't open it when I bought it, and on the way home they kept telling me there probably wasn't anything in the box - but there was."


McKeown grew up in Lexington, near Bloomington in the center of the state "People used to say you can hear corn grow," he says. "And on a hot night in Lexington with the windows open, you really could hear it there."

He considered making a living as a photographer. But after graduating from Illinois State University, where he had majored in business, he took a job working for Dun & Bradstreet. It was while there that McKeown met the Braasme family, who owned the Credit Bureau of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, a credit reporting business in the Twin Cities. McKeown accepted a job there and would spend 40 years working at the company as its operations manager for 40 years. But he always maintained his interest in photography, taking photos during his spare time for such organizations as Blossomtime and the Southwestern Michigan Tourism Council. He joined the Twin City Camera Club in 1971 and is still an active member. He took seminars presented by leading nature photographers such as George Lepp, John Shaw, larry West and John Gerlach. And he and the camera club present on annual weekend-long photo seminar every July at Hope College in Holland.

                                                       Radial Blur

 "Photography is a continual learning process," says McKeown. And indeed, during his years he's seen roll film give way to digital and dark rooms segue into online photo editing programs.

"I switched to digital when you could still get money for your old film cameras, he says. "Now there are beautiful film cameras out there that aren't worth anything."

McKeown specializes in landscapes and pays attention to the small details. That touch can be seen in such photos as the one of pink cherry blossoms that is on the Michigan Pure Web site, the state's tourism site; and a photo of a black and orange butterfly nestling in a spray of white apple blossoms and a close-up of lady slipper flower in the forest, both on the St. Joseph Kiwanis Club Web site. But McKeown also creates photos with a broad stroke. He also is involved with Lest We Forget, the organization that commemorates the Normandy Invasion with a reenactment of D-Day. McKeown's photo showing allied forces advancing their positions on St. Joseph's Tiscornia Beach in a recreation of the WWII beach landing re-enactment put on by Lest We Forget appeared in the Grand Rapids Press. There are the vivid scenes of a blood red sun turning the lake a fiery color, the St. Joseph lighthouse with a backdrop of the swirling colors of a kaleidoscope sunset and the lighthouse again, this time encrusted from top to bottom with ice.

"I shouldn't have been out there taking that," says McKeown shaking his head at the memory of the perilous walk on the catwalk to snap the shot. But it must be a favorite as it hangs in his living room (it can also be seen at along with other samples of his work).

                                              Wagner Falls fall color

This adventuresome mode led McKeown to travel to Alaska three times, visiting an isolated island in the Bering Strait where the only hotel didn't serve food but instead issued tickets for the fish camp two blocks down the street "The food was delicious," he says.

He also stayed in Denali National Pork in Alaska, where private vehicles are almost totally prohibited. But the camp where he stayed offered views of Mount McKinley and the setting sun, a panorama not observable from many other places.

On one of McKeown's Alaskan trips, he met a nature photographer who invited him to Africa. He had to think about that one for a while.

"I think America is so beautiful, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go," he says, But McKeown did go, spending time in Tanzania and on the Serengeti Plain, where they stayed in tents. But the group didn't totally rough it.

"We had our own cooks," says McKeown, "and ours made us a cake over an open fire," A giraffe wondered through camp one morning and McKeown took photos of cheetahs, lions, hyenas, water buffaloes and jackals.

Now retired, he keeps busy. On a recent nice day might he was out on the golf course snapping photos for the tourism council.

"Photography has taken me a lot of different places," says McKeown.  "it is a great hobby."

Congratulations Ken




Additional SHADOWS AND HIGHLIGHTS - Archive Pages:

  - Death of Life Member Curtis "Curt" Drake

- Life Member John Penrod Honored for 50 years in business

- They call them Megagraphics

- Amber and her Gorilla

 -  Ken McKeown featured in local publication - You are Here

         -  Lauren Strach featured in local paper

         -  Curtis Drake featured in local paper



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