by Sheila Julson
Oklahoma City photographer Ken Goad was originally more interested in viewing images than making images. During his teens, he frequently viewed photography magazines, and the vivid images instilled in him wanderlust to explore those destinations within the pages. “When I got out of school and I started going places, I wanted to record the fact that I’d been there,” he reflects.
As a U.S. Navy brat, he was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and he grew up in Macon, Georgia. With his first camera, a Cannon AE-1, he started taking pictures of the flowers in his grandmother’s garden, which led to an interest in fine art photography and landscape photos. Before relocating to Oklahoma City three years ago, he seldom stayed in one place for more than five years, instead choosing to explore and capture the people and scenery of the South. He met mentors along the way that taught him photography techniques and types of equipment.
Professionally, Goad has done cover art, product photos and portrait work, including weddings and graduations. Today, he still enjoys floral subjects and feels that his art has come full circle. Having done extensive portrait work, he also enjoys capturing people in his images. He’s excited to see resurgence in photographs with vintage, snapshot-like qualities.
“During the 1940s and 1950s, photographers would go to neighborhoods and set up in front of people’s houses, taking photos of families,” Goad observes. “You’d see the edges of cars and other organic background elements. Then later, photographers said we needed to get the trash can or other objects out of the picture, and it went to being so clean that it was clinical. But now we are going back to a nostalgic look that tells a story.”
Goad enjoys capturing the stories of life in Oklahoma City. He recently photographed small business owners involved in the Keep It Local movement, showing them doing their daily work.
When asked if he has a favorite photo, or a milestone project, Goad answers with a resounding no. “There are no one or two images that define me,” he says. Through the recommendation of an editor of a photography publication, Goad tried his suggestion to start with 100 favorite photos and gradually narrow them down to just a few cherished works. Goad couldn’t choose.
Every profession experiences changes in the field, and photography is no exception. Goad, however, has not been quick to embrace technological enhancements, such as computer editing, instead choosing to remain true to the subjects. “There’s no craft in taking a picture anymore, since everyone uses editing software to make a picture they didn’t take,” he says. “If I have this great image in my mind, I’d have to find exactly the right components and props. But now, you can find something just similar and still make the images happen. It’s not the same.” He equates digital enhancements to singers that don’t write their own songs and rely on outside sources instead of performing songs they wrote themselves.
While driving down a road, Goad will stop when something catches his eye. He believes true photographers must be able to snap stunning photos of anything within 10 feet of them, using core photography techniques of light, shadow and composition. “Whether it’s an ink pen on the table, or Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County, you have to know how to capture that and teach that to others,” he says. “I stay inspired by teaching others, and that helps me learn, too.”
Sheila Julson is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and contributor to Natural Awakenings magazines throughout the country.