Craig Kienast, owner of IMAGES by Craig Kienast, Clear Lake, Iowa, has an enviable job. He gets called on by the Surf Ballroom and Museum to photograph A-list acts that stop at the venue in Clear Lake.
It may be enviable, but it’s not easy. Security for the venue escorts Kienast on stage and inserts him into the front row. Craig gets as many shots as he can early in the show; basically, the first two or three songs.
Then, when he’s done, Kienast has to fight the crowd to get out of the front row and back to his setup where he works his magic. “People look at me like I’m crazy to leave the show so early,” explains Kienast
His magic is to bring the images he’s captured of the artists into Photoshop and then print and trim three images on-site for the artists to sign after the show. Two of the photos are auctioned off to support the museum portion of the Surf Ballroom and Museum and the other is hung on the museum’s wall.
“Sometimes with a group like ZZ Top it’s hard to get all of them together. In ZZ Top’s case I captured the bassist and guitarist together, then got some crazy cool shots of the drummer and merged the two images together in Photoshop,” explains Kienast.
Kienast’s setup is a computer, an Epson Stylus Photo R2880 inkjet printer and a small trimmer. Kienast outputs 8x10s, 11x14s or a combination of the two. He has a template set up in Photoshop that includes the name of the venue, the date, the artist and his copyright information.
The images are processed, set in the template, printed on LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin Paper, trimmed and ready for signing. Kienast also shoots video interviews backstage and produces photographic art of the venue on LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas.
“Usually the performer’s manager or publicist is there and they’re completely blown away that there will be images of the artist at the venue and hung on the wall. When we photographed Gary Busey the manager said no one does this; not even in Hollywood,” says Kienast.
Kienast’s photographic art, both from the show and the venue in general, can be found in the homes and offices of many of the acts that come through town and play at the Surf Ballroom. “It’s a real honor to have my artwork displayed by these A-list stars,” says Kienast.