Local advertising photographer Kip Dawkins did not intend to take his craft, which has long been a professional endeavor, to expressive visual artistry.
He did not expect photographs of the rustic scenery of America’s back roads taken while traveling for his professional photography would revitalize an appreciation in photography as an expressive art. And he certainly did not anticipate an exhibition at Quirk Gallery when showing these photographs from his travels to gallery director, Katie Ukrop. However, his exhibit, “Vacant” is now up at the Quirk Gallery.
Dawkins first got into photography as a means to carve a participatory place into the music scene. Having a passion for music, photography allowed Dawkins a place in the music scene despite not playing an instrument. In time, this led him to a career in advertising photography. However, being a photographer for 20 years, the creative appreciation began to dissipate.
“I enjoy doing it but it kind of sucks the soul out of it,” said Dawkins. “I got my start photographing punk rock bands and that’s what I love more than anything because music is everything to me.”
Kip Dawkins does plenty of traveling all around the United States and sometimes internationally for his work and has worked with everyone from Better Home and Gardens, Bloomingdales, Destination Hotels, Stolichnaya Vodka, GMC, and Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks.
To break from the insipid scenery of the highway, Dawkins will often take alternate routes off the highway, which is where his inspiration strikes. .
“If you’re not on 95 going 75mph you just see a lot of different stuff you don’t normally see,” he said.
On the back roads of America, Dawkins began stopping wherever an opportunity for a good shot seemed to be – often abandoned or bucolic scenery.
“I’ve always been drawn to things that are forgotten or lost or you know, just old Americana or whatever it may be,” he said. “It really got started at this abandoned mid-century hotel in Georgia that my dog and I found in the middle of nowhere.”
Once Dawkins inadvertently started the project, he began seeking out places to shoot. “I started using Google maps to find abandoned things and you can always see the swimming pools,” she said. As you may imagine, an empty pool full of algae sticks out.
There are lots of variables on which the value of a shot is dependent on. Dawkins keeps a keen sense of his surroundings while on the road because sometimes, it’s the perspective that makes the shot.
“There was one in South Carolina,” said Dawkins. “There were all these bones hanging in this guy’s driveway. I just happened to drive by there when it was rainy, creepy, dark, cold, and there are cow bones and Halloween decorations hanging up and I just happened to be there at the right time, because years later I drove by in daylight and it doesn’t have the same impact.”
One important lesson Dawkins takes from having an eye for the photogenic is to always have a camera on him. “A long time ago I missed this one shot of a children’s bike chained up to a topless bar in Austin, Texas. Looking back I’m like ‘what an amazing shot that would have been, it was a pink kid’s bike.’ So you always have to have it.”
Through his creative photography, Dawkins’ appreciation for photography in all forms was revitalized. “It wasn’t my intention, I’ve never thought of myself as a true artist. I’m kind of a technician,” said Dawkins.
“I totally fell in love with what I do again too, I started looking at how light was reacting when I was doing different shots. My work went to another level because I think I started to care more about it and I started to understand visual queues more than I used to.”
“Vacant” will be up at the Quirk Gallery until April 9th.
Images via Kip Dawkins Photography