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Art & Life with Raymond Kunst

Today we’d like to introduce you to Raymond Kunst.

Raymond, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was born at Wesley Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago and raised on the Northside around Lincoln and Devon. My family moved to Mt. Prospect when I was 11 years old, and I moved back to Chicago when I turned 21. The city is in my blood, I love the sounds, textures, and it’s fast pace; I would not live anywhere else.

I started taking photos around the age of nine, heading out and around my backyard and neighborhood with a Kodak Instamatic camera. Not long after that, I took my first real camera, a Pentax K1000, everywhere I went. My dad had a 1952 Zeiss Ikon Contina Rangefinder which I still have to this day. Not knowing it at that time, my watching him take photos would be a big inspiration in my life.

My dad was the biggest influence on where I am today. He was the superintendent of the largest masonry company in the Midwest, and I would travel with him to construction sites as early as the age of nine, much to my mother’s dismay. During summer and winter school breaks, I worked as a bricklayer/laborer for my dad’s company, Crouch/Walker, and hoped to obtain a better understanding of the construction process for use in what I hoped would be my future architectural career.

As I long as I can remember, I wanted to be an architect. Every class I took from high school onward was geared toward this goal. I studied architecture for three and a half years at the University of Illinois at Chicago (Circle Campus) before changing my majors to graphic design and photography. Upon graduation, I worked at an architectural firm as a draftsman, yet I continued to interview for positions in graphic design during my lunch hours.

I received my first break in 1984 and landed a job as an art director and company photographer at Bender, Browning, Dolby & Sanderson in Chicago. One of the firm’s partners, John Dolby, an industrial designer, saw my architectural portfolio and 3D models and hired me on the spot. Because apprenticeships of several years are generally required, my being hired as an art director right out of college was unusual; however, John saw something in me and took a chance. That was all I needed to get my career started.

My second position was with Graziano, Krafft & Zale, also in Chicago as an art director, graphic designer, and account executive. That was followed 20 years with Cramer-Krasselt of Chicago in positions as
designer/typographer, production graphics manager and as a senior digital production artist.

My entire 29-year career was spent on Michigan Ave., a block north and south of Wacker Drive.

Each day, I walked the street with my camera absorbing the sites that the city provided. I saw upper Wacker Drive being removed and rebuilt; I saw what was just a parking lot become what is now Millennium Park; I saw a city rise and sometimes fall right before my eyes. I witnessed the beautiful, the ugly, the daytime chaos and nighttime calm. I felt I was one with the city. Chicago never disappoints me and always supplies wonderful imagery for me to photograph. Every day I am out shooting, I am at my absolute happiest. Photographing Chicago is my true calling.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My main focus is Abstract Architectural Photography. Abstract Architectural Photography is the opposite of photojournalism. My photography is not concerned with documenting an event or situation; it’s more about raw feeling. When I see an image, I deconstruct the scene to its smallest parts, focusing on the details, where I see pure beauty. Like abstract art, abstract photography concentrates on shape, form, color, pattern, and texture. My work in abstract photography has been greatly facilitated by transitioning from film to digital formats over the last 15 years.

My creative background in architecture, graphic design, interior design and the 29 years I devoted to the advertising industry combined to influence my art. My inspiration comes from the beauty of architecture and its purely functional design. I spend my days roaming the streets of Chicago looking for unique and unusual settings.

What responsibility, if any, do you think artists have to use their art to help alleviate problems faced by others? Has your art been affected by issues you’ve concerned about?
Artists provide very important functions in society. From bringing focus to causes to making people forget their problems. I try to evoke emotions with my imagery, using shapes, forms, colors, patterns, and textures to elicit a feeling.

I am not a photojournalist nor do I want to be, yet I still cannot help letting the current events affect my art.
Over time, I have become aware that my photographs have changed appearance from soft, very colorful, and somewhat oversaturated images to less colorful, harsher and more highly detailed images. I am always changing and reinventing my style because to do otherwise may subject me to boredom or failure.

I recently shot an image of a homeless person, taking great care not to show his face or cause him embarrassment. In the past 48 years of taking photos, I have only shot the homeless twice, once in 1993 and then again in 2016. I am still struggling with this type of imagery, but while I am out shooting it is all but impossible to ignore. I keep politics out of my images because with the polarization in the world today one cannot risk isolating or losing customers.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Real Art Custom Framing 3744 N Broadway St, Chicago, IL
Canterbury Summer Theatre 807 Franklin St
Michigan City, Indiana

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