Local News

Photographer captures a new view

By Elsie Lynn Parini

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.”

That’s one of those Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes scrolled on your coffee cup in curly letters that you see through baggy eyes and unwashed hair. It’s there, reminding you to appreciate the beauty of every day… and be grateful.

By Caleb Kenna
The photography of Caleb Kenna features areal shots by a drone. More information is availalbe at calebkenna.com

Sure, sometimes we snarl at the positivity and pick a different mug with some sassy expletive to match our mood. Nonetheless, quotes like these are, yes cheesy, but also helpful.

Take for example, local photographer Caleb Kenna who actualizes this quote quite literally as he flies his camera-equipped drone into the sky and looks through the lens of that camera to see our familiar Vermont landscapes from above.

“The drone has become an incredible addition to my camera bag,” the Kenna explained in a recent interview. “I started working with drones in 2017… And even though my background is in photojournalism, the drone opened up fine art as a possibility for me. I didn’t anticipate that; the drone made it feasible.”

After a generous spread in a July 2020 edition of The New York Times featuring his drone images, Kenna got a book deal.
“Art From Above Vermont,” featuring 130 images and a forward by Bill McKibben, was published in October. Most recently, Kenna’s been on a local tour promoting his book with a video presentation made by Chris Spencer of Vergennes.

He’s going to host an open studio and print sale on Saturday, Dec. 10, from 12-4 p.m., at his studio in Brandon (40 Old Farm Road). Kenna’s prints, by the way, are printed by Brandon printer and photographer Don Ross.

“So much of what makes a good image for me is about good light,” Kenna explained, when asked what inspires him to click the shutter. “I try to get out and practice every day… Sunrise, sunset, cloudy days… really if I have half an hour and the light is good, I’ll go out and look for photos… It is a meditation in some ways.”

Kenna’s been practicing his skills since the mid-1990s when he started shooting for local papers like the Addison Independent and Rutland Herald. Of course, in those days the 20-something-year-old was shooting from just six feet off the ground; still he thinks about what his first editors would tell him.

“We were often asked to go out and look for ‘wild art’ — photos depicting everyday life, you know, like the farmer out working in the field, or a skateboarder riding down the street — little stories going on that you immediately want to capture,” said Kenna, who’s work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, Yankee, Smithsonian, Seven Days, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Lonely Planet, Education Week and The Vermont Land Trust.

“I’m still looking for ‘wild art’” said the Brandon native, “except now I do it from the air.”

Of the 130 images in Kenna’s new book, he feels the most successful images are “the ones that become more abstract. The bird’s-eye-view perspective accents the patterns and light, and I find are more interesting to look at on a wall.”
Kenna also recognizes that photographs can be documents in time. “In terms of the environment, water quality and climate change that can be really important,” he said.

“Pixel per acre, I can’t think of a more diverse landscape than Vermont’s,” reads a portion of McKibben’s forward. “What a gift we’ve been given to see it from a new vantage!”
The fact that his new book or a print are well timed for this holiday season isn’t lost on Kenna. But, sales aside, what drives him is the joy of getting out as much as possible with his drone.

“When I’m out taking pictures, I’m flying and floating above our landscapes,” he said. “It’s just fun to daydream up there and be transported.”

For more information about Caleb Kenna visit calebkenna.com.

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