Kevin Horn is the guy that always orders the same brunch item because he’s already got it all figured out. He will stump you in Seinfeld trivia, only drinks red wine and has a modelesque cat that wouldn’t let me touch him. He also happens to be an insane photographer. Read and see here.
For whatever reason, skateboarding seems to produce a lot of professional photographers. It’s as if the sport is a gateway drug to fine art photography for those optically inclined. Skateboarding is a visual sport, surviving mainly through shared images and videos, unintentionally nurturing a craft in young groms worldwide.
Kevin Horn, seems to be the next notable photographer to have started via skating. He got his first film SLR camera when he was 14 or 15 from his grandparents and quickly began capturing his friends out in the streets, sparking a further interest in photography.
As Kevin grew up it became clear to him that he didn’t want any kind of office or day job, and that he wanted to spend his days working with cameras. He discovered a love for cinematography alongside photography, and he slowly transitioned to doing more artful, narrative video work. He started freelancing as a cinematographer, and between 2010 and 2012 he worked on about 30 films; 3 features, and a ton of shorts.
"I got a lot of experience in a short amount of time, and met a lot of people, but I also got burned a lot. I started thinking about how to ensure that the whole project would turn out well, make sure that the crew and I get paid and have a good time. I decided that if I start my own thing, then I can control all those factors."
Thus, he started his own production company, Wondervision in 2012. Although he was only 23 at the time, he had worked consistently in the industry for years by that point, and had a network of established client and industry relationships that helped get Wondervision off the ground.
"A lot of people think I’m older than them but I’m not, not sure why… haha. I think a lot of it comes down to demeanor and experience. People assume that at 25 you can’t have that much experience, but when this is the only thing you do 24/7 - when you make it your life - you do gain a lot of experience in 5 years."
Unlike a lot of burgeoning production companies, Wondervision generally stays away from doing direct-to-client or spec work, and has jumped into working with major ad agencies, including Olson in Minneapolis. Kevin’s role differs depending on each project. He’s written and directed a few commercials and a 25 min. short film titled Panhandler, but his primary craft is cinematography.
One of Wondervision’s first and most notable projects was a commercial for Fiat. Automobile advertising is incredibly competitive for established directors and production companies, much less those just starting out… But Wondervision was able to take advantage of a lucky opportunity to pitch a commercial idea for the brand. Kevin wrote a treatment, presented it to the company and they loved it. That spot became the first of 4 that Wondervision’s done so far for local Fiat retailers.
Although many people might be confused as to why Kevin hasn’t packed up and shipped out to Los Angeles, the filmmaking capital of everywhere, we actually think he’s very smart to take advantage of his current outsider location. By staying in Minnesota while he builds his company reel, he’s able to take advantage of lower competition, books more work, and gains experience faster. Hollywood’s long chain of command is littered with aspiring filmmakers that are still just production or camera assistants waiting to move up. By staying in Minnesota, Kevin is gaining experience as a lead cinematographer at 25, which just normally doesn’t happen on real commercial work in LA.
"I made a clear decision when I started, that I wasn’t going to PA or camera assist. I’ll get hired to shoot. And now that I have experience as a cinematographer, I’m not asked to do the other positions. I’m just trying to make sure I’m growing as an artist everyday, and really build something solid here before I make a big move."
Recently Kevin rekindled his passion for shooting film, and has been working on a photography book titled Ect. The hardcover coffee-table book showcases black and white street photography, shot in 6x6 square, medium format on a Mamiya Rangefinder. The subjects are all framed within very specific light and architecture around Phoenix, Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis and St. Paul. "It’s kind of an homage to light and architecture in general. I’ve waited hours to get a photo. I’ll find the right framing and right architecture, and just wait for someone to walk into it." He also sells his prints, which he develops every night in his makeshift darkroom in his bathroom.
"Photography is so personal for me. It’s just me walking around. I like shooting strangers, I find that when I look at negatives I usually don’t even scan the pictures of people I know. I already know what they look like, there’s no surprise for me there."
Whether it’s the teamwork required for cinematography or solitude required for photography, Kevin can’t seem to decide which he likes more.
"People keep asking me what I want to do, cinematography or photography, and I just want to do all of it. I like to say that I make a living as a cinematographer but I live my life as a photographer. I enjoy both of them equally, just for different reasons. I still don’t know how I’m making money at this haha. I can’t believe people pay me to do the stuff I do… I would do it all anyway."
Thankfully, judging by the quality of his video and prints, he shouldn't have to choose either / or anytime soon.
What else do you shoot on?
I shot everything in Etc. on a Mamiya 6. It shoots 6x6 medium format. For all of my 35mm work I use an Olympus Stylus Epic and a Nikon F. I just recently bought a Sinar F1 4x5 camera and am currently planning a high production large format project. Each camera has a different use and I choose each one depending on my specific needs.
How do you mainly share your photos?
I have Flickr but don’t really use it as a social thing, more just like a gallery. Instagram has been a really great tool, I’ve met a lot of people from it. There’s a cool community of film photographers on Instagram, we’ll do print trades and I’ll buy books from them. But really my photos are made to be seen large, as a print on a wall.
Who are your favorite cinematographers?
Roger Deakins, Robert Elswit and Conrad L. Hall.
What’s your favorite movie?
Donnie Darko. That was my favorite film before I went to film school and it still is. It still holds up for me, there’s just something about it - it’s really nostalgic. It really matches my visual style and narrative style as a director.
Who's a dream collaborator, past or present?
Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David. That’s a dream for sure. I hate when people name-drop, but like, if you drop those two names, I will LISTEN. I would work on anything to get to work with those two. In any capacity. Filmmakers or not, they’re just my two idols. As far as like, directors, probably Paul Thomas Anderson. Or David Fincher.
Favorite Seinfeld episode?
The Marine Biologist.
What hobbies do you have outside of filmmaking and photography?
Hmmmmm. Skateboarding and photography are the big ones… Trying to think of what else I do besides those things haha… I like traveling. My goal for 2015 is to take a trip every month.
What’s your favorite thing about Minnesota?
I want to say the seasons, but I won’t because everyone says that. I specifically like St. Paul because I was born and raised here, and it has a lot of really unique history. Minnesota’s affordable and the summers are amazing. And I have some friends left here... haha.
Drink of choice?
I only drink red wine. Merlot or Malbec.
Favorite brunch spot?
The Uptowner Cafe in Saint Paul. I probably go there about once a week. Cajun breakfast, no toast. Every time. They don't even give me a menu anymore.
Bloody mary’s or mimosas?
Neither, I can’t drink alcohol in the morning... I don’t like vodka and I don’t like tomato juice, so I’d probably go mimosa. I have a hard time drinking alcohol if it’s still light out, I think it’s a psychology thing.