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Ken Smith, Photographer

I spent time in an Air Force base darkroom in Newfoundland when I was in high school.

Though I hadn't taken the photos, I was mesmerized by the process of revealing the images taken by the photographer with whom I worked on the yearbook. 


I didn't start taking photos until I inherited an Exacta VX500 after I got out of the Air Force in 1970. Going to college and raising a family, while working full time as a Respiratory Therapist didn't give me much time for photography in those days. 

After moving to San Francisco in 1982 and working as a set builder and lighting designer for a couple of years I started a scenery and prop company, Scene 2 with another theater trained designer. In 1985, I bought a Nikon F3HP and got hooked on making images. I built my first darkroom under the stairs in the Victorian flat I shared with my girlfriend, now wife, artist Susan Bercu, in the Mission District.

In 1991, I left the scenery business to make it on my own as an advertising photographer and struggled to make a living until 1995 when I took a job as the resident digital photographer with the pre-press house, DPI. It was a steep learning curve transitioning from film to digital with the Dicomed(BetterLight) scanning back on a Horseman 4x5, but the inventor, Michael Collette and photographer Steven Johnson spent a long day with me in the studio helping to flatten the curve. Michael re-wrote some of the camera software to accommodate studio shooting which made the transition a bit easier.

I set up my own studio in 1998 and worked for Old Navy, The Gap, Banana Republic, PC World Magazine, Williams Sonoma, Beverages and More, PC Gaming, and many others over the years. 

Since the beginning, black and white film imagery had it's grip on me and I spent many weekends shooting on the streets from 1985 to 1994. Sunday evenings were spent processing film, making proof sheets and loading cassettes with fresh Tri-X, Panatomic X, Ilford HP5 and FP4, Agfa APX100. I shot just about every monochrome film available looking for the magic.

I built 6 darkrooms over the years and processed thousands of images. In 1998, I stopped shooting film, gave the darkroom and equipment away and sold all my analog cameras except the 4x5 Horseman and 8x10 Deardorff. I occasionally shot Polaroids with them. In 1999, I bought a Kodak(Canon EOS 1)560c 6MP camera, 5 lenses, 3 Broncolor Power Packs, 4 Heads, 5 soft boxes and numerous other studio equipment items I needed to go from continuous fluorescent lighting needed for the scan back to a strobe based digital capture studio... $65,000.00 worth. The investment was well timed

In 2003, after the dot com bust, I relocated to San Rafael. I moved the studio twice more and in 2012 closed my last studio on Smith Ranch Road. I had sold pretty much all the studio equipment by the end of 2010. I shot my last commercial assignment in my garage in 2015. 

But, as you can see, I have not slowed down making images. And now, I have a Mamiya RB67, my wife's old Olympus OM-1 with a 50mm f1.8 lens and a Fuji GW670 or Texas Leica.They are loaded with film. The obsession continues.


Ken Smith Photography Exhibition History


Room Interior Gallery, San Rafael, CA • 2009 to present

Riverfront Art Gallery, Petaluma, CA• 2008-2010

Gallery 34, Tiburon, CA • 2008-2010

Gary Farrell Winery, Healdsburg, CA • Solo Shows, 2008 and 2009


Marin Landscapes in Color and Black and White

Solo Artist Show at the Bear Valley Conference Center

Point Reyes National Seashore 2010


Future of Farming • Solo Artist Exhibition • Landscape and Portraits

Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael, CA

January to April 2009


From the Land • Solo Artist Exhibition of Photography

At Toby’s Feed Barn Gallery, August, 2007

Point Reyes Station, CA

50 Landscape and 4 still life images in 20x24 and 16x20 prints

23 Portraits of farmers and ranchers in 11x14 prints – Portraits on permanent display.


Marin Arts Council Open Studios

2004, 2005, 2007, 2009


Sausalito Arts Festival, 1993


University of Delaware Art Museum Exhibition

Print of “Into the Garden” purchased for permanent collection.

Summer, 1993


Ft. Mason Cowell Theatre Exhibition, May, 1991

Black and White Portrait Show

8 11x14 Black and White Portraits from the series “40 Women”


Advertising Photographers of America Personal Work Show, April, 1991

1 11x14 image of “Fat Chance Belly Dance”


San Mateo County Artists Guild Exhibition, March, 1991

1 – 11x14 print of “Sherry on a Pedestal”


Eye Galley,Phoenix, AZ, March 1991

New Nudes Exhibition

Portrait of Sherry on Pedestal, 11x14 Print



"Marin Farm Families; Stories and Recipes“

Printed summer of 2006


University of Delaware Art Museum Exhibition

Print of “Into the Garden” purchased for permanent collection.

Summer, 1993



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