A western New York man’s new passion for photography developed from his love of agriculture. Now, through his camera lens, he is hoping others can see the wonderful things he has long known about life on the farm.
Twenty-four-year-old Kevin Keenan is an agricultural technician from Caledonia, New York, by trade. He works full time as a precision planting technician at Growmark FS, but he has always been involved with agriculture. His family still manages part of the land from his grandfather’s farm. Keenan Farms sparked his initial interest in agriculture. Then a close childhood friend had a larger farm down the road where, growing up, he began spending his free time. He eventually started working summers there and was hired full time for a period after college.
At the beginning of his career, photography wasn’t really on his radar. “It just kind of happened,” Keenan said.
In his spare time, he would capture agricultural snapshots from around the area. His mother had a digital camera that he started playing with just for fun in 2014. He quickly realized that he needed to “step up his game,” so he purchased a better camera soon after.
Keenan’s new love of photography and his already existing love for agriculture quickly merged as he was sitting in a farm field taking in the view.
“I can vividly remember: it was an awesome sunset and I remember thinking, ‘I wish I could capture that,'” he said.
It really came together later that year. He attended a dinner at a neighbor farmer, who had a guest speaker who emphasized that farmers need to share our stories. “If we don’t do it, no one will,” he was told.
The message really stuck with him, and now that’s what he tries to do. He wants to share the stories of farmers with other people through his photos. He has also started using drones and a GoPro to capture the action up close in video format. He now posts his work on his Facebook page at Kevin Keenan Photography. One video is of a nearby wheat harvest and another of #Plant16, a popular hashtag including photos and videos of the 2016 planting season.
Going forward he hopes to continue growing his Facebook page and taking on more projects. This year he shot some of the billboard photographs for Livingston County’s Farm Fest. Each year six to seven billboards around the county display photos of farm families from the area.
“This type of photography is kind of (a) niche market. We are surrounded by Livingston County, which is the highest grain-producing county in New York state. There aren’t many other photographers around here that are focusing on the same type of thing,” Keenan said.
He encourages other young people who are interested in photography to talk to other photographers.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Just go out and learn; just do it,” Keenan said.
Keenan has extended his network by becoming a member of a local photography society. They meet twice a month and offer educational opportunities and critiques, and are involved in local and national competitions.
He continues to strive to share the stories of agriculture and the people who live it.
“Paul Stein, who is 81 years old and still actively farming, is the perfect example. I think about how cool his life has been. How do you share that with people?” Keenan said. “I still haven’t mastered it.”
But people are starting to notice as he is developing a following on social media. He also received the 2014-2015 Most Improved Photographer award from The Genesee Valley Photography Society. He is well on his way to opening up new eyes to the beauty of agriculture and the passion people have for it, in front of and behind the camera lens.