“Well, I don’t think everything necessarily that I touch turns to gold, but I think I get great joy out of it regardless of whether it is successful or not.” -Kenny Rogers

Kenny Rogers, photographer

Singer Kenny Rogers, who died last week at the age of 81, is best known for his 24 number-1 hit songs, winning three Grammys and six CMAs. What most don’t know is that he was an accomplished photographer, shown in his books, “Kenny Rogers’ America” (1986) and “Your Friends and Mine” (1988).

Kenny Rogers by Kelly Junkermann

Kenny Rogers sought out master photographers

Rogers studied with renowned photographers. John Sexton, a protege of Ansel Adams, taught him landscape photography. Portraitist Yousuf Karsh gave insights into capturing celebrities by making them feel at ease. George Hurrell helped Rogers connect with his subjects with a trick.

Hurrell said, “I call it the stolen moment.” Of what Hurrell told him, Rogers said, “you talk to a subject about their happiest day and also the saddest day of their life. Just as they respond to the question, you take the picture. It means they are not posing, but rather being who they truly are. It’s honestly such a great trick.”

Kenny Rogers on tour

He started going for long walks with a Kodak Brownie 35mm camera while he was on tour. He loved photographing trees. The camera helped Rogers avoid boredom while on tour across America. Of his life on the road, Rogers remarked, “I only worked an hour a day. That meant I had 23 hours with nothing to do.”

Rogers was a talented photographer

Kenny Rogers received an honorary degree from the Professional Photographers of America in 2014. “He’s obviously well-known as an entertainer,” said PPA President Ralph Romaguera when giving Rogers his award, “but he truly is a remarkably talented photographer, too.”