World Class Photographer: Rich Kee

His Life Of Pictures In A Thousand Words

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As a professional photographer, are you able to see the story when you take the shot or do you just see a good shot and take it? 

Depends. If you’re on assignment you typically seek out the images to tell the storyline. If your mind is “freelancing” at the time I shoot on instinct of what catches my eye.

What were some of the highlights of being the Dodgers team photographer in the 70’s and 80’s?

Developing lasting friendships through the years. My position as team photographer afforded me the pleasure of working with “everyone” within the O’Malley organization. Some employees may have worked there for many decades as a member of the ticket department for instance but they didn’t have expanded interaction with others like me in having to work with the owner of the ball club to the bat boy. Of course, my three trips to post season in ’77, ’78 and ’81 were special. It was also great being thrown out of a major league baseball game by a major league umpire in Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia, 1977. Not many non-uniformed folks can lay claim to that, including the fact that it led to a televised argument between Lasorda and the umpire as Tommy tried to defend me. I loved my children being allowed to enjoy the entire Dodger experience. The O’Malley’s included families whenever possible. Finally, one highlight comes to mind. We’re in New York during the World Series and a night game was rained out and called off early in the afternoon. So Lasorda sees me in the hotel lobby and invites me to join him and a couple other guys to dinner that night. Five of us pile into a cab and head out to Little Italy. Much like a scene out of Godfather we enter this little Italian restaurant and are greeted by the owner who leads us through the main dining room to a private room in the back. I walk in to see two gentlemen seated and waiting for us. One of them was Joe DiMaggio…an unforgettable evening. I knew well enough to keep my mouth shut and absorb all that played out….the laughs and baseball stories shared. On a more low key highlight would be whenever the opportunity presented itself I would take some of the youngsters of my friends to see a tour of the clubhouse. As a child loving the games, I could only dream of what a clubhouse looked like. I wanted to show these youngsters that the players are simply real people that were fortunate to have a talent that allowed them to play baseball to make a living. I wanted them to see real life beyond the dugout that I never got to see when I were their age.

How has the change in the technology of photography affected your industry?

Competition. The introduction of digital combined with the Internet provided almost instant delivery of images to your client, especially for those photographers in the working media. On a commercial/professional level it is much easier to promote your work within the industry. i.e. art directors, designers and ad agencies.

Can one be a photographer today and not be rooted in social media well? 

It would be very difficult. In order to market yourself and services you must follow your customer base. If your customer is in the public arena, yes you need it. If your customer is within the professional field like agencies for example, then the answer is mostly no.

Who was the one guy that hated doing photographs the most in your time with the Dodgers?

Without a doubt it was our owner Peter O’Malley. He despised it and for me it was a root canal experience. Getting him to smile was a nightmare and I can’t say I was very successful during those years. Fast forward over forty years to last year when I was a guest at former broadcaster Ross Porter’s golf tournament and evening reception. We all spent a little time together in the VIP room prior to dinner. I asked Ross, Vin Scully, Tommy and Peter to posed for a quick shot. (Keep in mind, I have put on weight over the years compared to when I was a stick during the years with the club.) Just before I was about to hit the shutter Tommy blurts out, “I remember when Rich was 126 lbs!” Everyone laughed and I finally got that smile from O’Malley after all those years. 🙂

Name a few of the professional photographers that came before you that you might consider and influence on your long and successful career?

One that comes to mind is a fellow Brooks graduate that went on to a very successful career in Portland, OR…Sharon Amestoy. As part of the Brooks Institute structure we had yearly one week field trips. Sharon and I decided on Yosemite. Being young and impressionable I followed her lead. In a national park with unforgettable views that Ansel Adams made himself a household name as a result of, I mimicked Sharon’s style and it was mostly macros, close-ups of baby mushrooms, close-up details of ferns on the Valley floor. Her eye was exceptional and her approach was amazing. Her influence is why I shot the game of baseball the way I did. Simple elements.

In all your years of doing this, what was the one most important breakthrough in photography as we know it?

Has to be the technical advancements being digital and cell phone cameras.

What was the strangest thing or who was the strangest person you were ever paid to take photos of? 

For many years I handled the Beverly Hills Friars Club account. It allowed me to interact and form friendships with many from the entertainment industry. I often joked that I did my internship with the egos of professional ball players so I was well prepared to handle the egos of famous stars. On that topic, one of the strangest experiences and I may add that was disappointing, was a photo shoot with Lucille Ball. My idol growing up as a kid was a total PITA. A mouth on her worse than a sailor and an attitude that made me relieved to have the shoot session over. Some day, if I live long enough I should write a book about my BHFC experiences.

What, other than sports, is your favorite subject matter to photograph?

Definitely portraiture. My site UltimateGameFaces, highlights my current portrait work. Portraits that I try to shoot in a non traditional manner if possible.

Did you ever use a Kodak where you took the shot and the picture shot out from the bottom of the camera?

Polaroids. Yes, years ago with family before digital and we were able to enjoy them right away.

One last question, did Tommy Lasorda ever bitch at you, telling you your camera added 10 pounds to his photo?

No, he knew, and the rest of us did as well, that was all on him!

 

Check out this earlier post about “the first high five” from Rich

For more information about Rich Kee, click here.

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