‘Monumental’ photographer hosts workshop at UK School of Art and Visual Studies


Carter Skaggs

Photographer Henry Horenstein shows photos from some of his published works on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, at Bolivar Art Gallery in Lexington, Kentucky. This particular photo of his family’s dog was, as he described it, a metaphor for his mother. Horenstein’s lecture is part of the “Visiting Artist Lecture” series hosted by the UK School of Arts and Visual Studies, also known as SA/VS. Photo by Carter Skaggs | Staff

Casey Sebastiano, Reporter

Photographer Henry Horenstein spoke to UK students and faculty about his involvement in the world of photography as a part of the Artist Talk & Workshop at the UK School of Art and Visual Studies’ Bolivar Art Gallery on Monday, Feb. 13.

Forest Kelley, an assistant professor in UK’s School of Art and Visual Studies, is a former student of Horenstein. Kelley invited him to speak at the Artist Talk and said Horenstein is a “monumental figure in the photography world.” 

“He, among other things, wrote some of the textbooks including the Black and White Darkroom textbook that basically every photography classroom uses,” Kelley said. “The book is so ubiquitous that if you go into any thrift store, you’ll find it.”

Horenstein has now published upwards of 35 books and films, including “Close Relations,” “Show,” “Animalia” and “Honky Tonk.” For him to choose a favorite is not an easy feat. However, Horenstein said that he loves his memoir, “Shoot What You Love,” published in 2016.

“It’s written. It’s my life,” Horenstein said. “It’s not really a book of photographs, although there are a lot of photographs in it.”

Horenstein compiled years worth of photography into a documentation of his career. 

“It gave me a lot of perspective I didn’t have before,” Horenstein said.

Early in his photography career, Horenstein was introduced to a book titled “The Bikeriders” by Danny Lyon. Horenstein called the book a piece of “oral history through photography.” 

He later found out Lyon attended the University of Chicago to study history, same as Horenstein.

Horenstein recalled this realization as the first moment he realized he could pursue a career doing what he loved.

Horenstein has been a professional photographer, filmmaker, teacher and author since 1968, although he did not always have his eye on photography.

He attended the University of Chicago as an undergraduate student to study history with the intent of becoming a history professor. However, he did not receive his diploma because he was expelled his senior year for being involved in a student-run protest.

Little did he know, being expelled his senior year would open doors and lead him to where he is today.

Horenstein spoke to both students and faculty who attended the workshop about his journey with photography over the past few decades.

Chloe Day, a senior in UK’s digital media and design program, said her photography class instructor has taken her class to many artist talks.

“We thought it would be interesting to come and hear what he had to say and learn about his work,” Day said.

Currently living in Boston, Massachusetts, Horenstein is a photography professor at his alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design, where he earned his BFA and MFA.

Horenstein said teaching young photography students is a “blessed job.” During his time as a young photography student, Horenstein received a piece of advice that he carries with him to this day.

He attended a workshop hosted by Minor White, a prominent photographer from the mid-1900s.

“Take what you need from a class, leave a rest, and go on to do the same in all your future classes,” White said. 

White passed this lesson on while Horenstein tried to quit the workshop. In turn, Horenstein now passes on the lesson to those who attended his own workshop, about 50 years later. 

He also told attendees to take themselves seriously when they are young as their work could have a large impact.

Students in the College of Fine Arts are able to showcase their work throughout the academic year at various art shows held in the Bolivar Art Gallery, located on the first floor of UK’s School of Art and Visual Studies.

According to the school’s website, the gallery is a “dynamic and creative space, full of possibilities.”

Kelley said the College of Fine Arts hosts at least five or six visiting artists, guests or scholars a semester.

“It’s really just a great opportunity for students to hear from and meet people, like Henry Horenstein, who are connected to some broader networks to expose them to different things, different work.” Kelley said.

The next Visiting Artist Talk & Workshop will feature Mack Gingles on Feb. 17 at noon at the Bolivar Art Gallery.