Gallery Hopper: Where to see art in Tulsa this month.
Photo courtesy of Kelly Kerr
Kelly Kerr can talk shop. A photography instructor at Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee, he usually has plenty to say, but when a group of guitar players invades his studio, he’s not all that interested in discussing guitar technique.
“There was this one day where everyone wanted to talk guitars,” Kerr says of the guitarists he recently photographed for his new exhibition. “I was kind of like, ‘Hey! You guys are here for me. Remember me? I’m over here in the corner. Let’s take some pictures!’”
It’s a good thing he broke up the chit-chat because take some pictures they did. Over the past few months, Kerr has photographed 38 Oklahoma guitarists as part of his exhibition “Axe Men: The Sons of Lumber,” on display at Ida Red Boutique, 3346 S. Peoria Ave., until the end of the year.
After a long career in photojournalism, Kerr left his position at the Tulsa World to teach and, as he puts it, “help the next generation.” His new schedule allows him more time to pursue artistic projects. “Axe Men” is his fourth photography show in the past two years since he made the switch.
Some things, though, haven’t changed, such as Kerr’s passion for the music scene.
“It always seems to kind of come back around to music,” he says. “That’s one of my loves.”
During his stint at the Tulsa World, Kerr says his band photography was always high-drama, featuring costumes, pyrotechnics and the occasional fake rainfall.
For “Axe Men,” Kerr says he wanted the portraits to be more about the personalities of the guitar players and their instruments and less about his ability to manipulate the images with fire, water or other classical elements. Each black-and-white photograph was shot on the same background with the same lighting at the same location.
“I really just wanted to kind of pay tribute to the really high quality and diversity of guitar players we have in this town,” Kerr says. “It turned out to be even more diverse and amazing than I had even given it credit for at the time.”
The show spans three generations of guitar players, including some musicians Kerr calls the unsung heroes of Tulsa. Those featured in the project include Tommy Tripplehorn, Steve Pryor, Adam Lopez, Paul Benjaman and Hank Hanewinkel III, among others.
When asked whether he wants to learn to play the guitar, Kerr says he’d love to, but “it seems in all my spare time, I have a camera in my hand.”
If, however, that were to change, he knows exactly what sheet music he’d dig up first.
“Believe it or not, I would probably learn a bunch of John Denver songs,” he says.
Kerr is not the only photographer in town who is on the lookout for guitar players.
Also this month is the opening of photographer Jeremy Charles’ exhibit “ROCK CITY II.” The show, comprising promotional band portraits, follows Charles’ previous exhibit, “ROCK CITY,” which debuted in 2008.
“Even though I do a wide range of commercial work, I consider myself a music photographer first and foremost,” Charles says. “That’s where I find unending inspiration.”
Charles’ show will kick off at Shades of Brown, 3302 S. Peoria Ave., with an opening party from 6-8:30 p.m., Dec. 9.
Coincidentally, Kerr and Charles have collaborated on projects in the past, such as the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice’s 2010 project “This Machine,” through which the pair photographed — guess who — musicians.