A photographer by trade, Danny Kahler, owner of Kahler Photo in Minneapolis, has taken those skills and his signature style and applied them to various interior environments, adding printing, framing and installation to the mix.
Kahler’s first interior décor project was for a hotel. His sales pitch was to photograph site-specific images that would be used as room art at the hotel. He did the photo shoot in Omaha and the client selected their favorite images, which Kahler then printed for them.
Kahler expanded on that concept, creating and printing public space art, like lobby and conference room artwork for corporate offices, assisted living centers, schools, hospitals and so forth. Since that first big project, Kahler has concentrated on providing only custom décor printing with all the tools necessary to do it right and on time.
“We thrive on custom artwork. I like to give a client, or a designer working with a client, the option to do color abstraction or color replacement images. In this case, you’re basically taking existing colors in the image and replacing them with colors that coordinate with the interior space of a building. Rather than just converting an image to a black-and-white or sepia tone, we’re going beyond that,” explains Kahler.
Going beyond that for Kahler means that, in addition to printing on fine art papers, photo papers and canvas, he prints on thin sheets of various materials, like wood veneer and aluminum. For larger substrates, like plywood, acrylic, PVC and Dibond, Kahler contracts the printing to local print shops with flatbed UV-curable printers.
“With our Epson printers we can print on veneer or aluminum, apply contact adhesive on the back and then apply it to another substrate as a backer, like MDF and Gator Board,” says Kahler. “We then select mounting hardware that works well with the existing hardware in the space. This may be standoff hardware, wire suspension or security hardware.”
Over the years, Kahler Photo has expanded from just printing to providing framing and installation services. Kahler doesn’t do all project installations, such as hotel guest room art, but installs the more unique pieces that require that extra detail.
“Adding framing services opened up a lot of doors, because we became more of a one-stop shop; they didn’t have to hire us to do photography and printing and someone else do mounting and framing,” says Kahler. “No project leaves the studio until we’re happy with it, even if it means that we have to re-do part of it. You put in extra hours if needed to get it right so that the client says it’s more than what they imagined; that’s what it’s all about.”
“We started using LexJet papers about a year ago. I talked to Rob [Finkel, Kahler’s LexJet customer specialist] last week about incorporating LexJet fabrics into our production for particular projects,” says Kahler. “We’ve been very happy with the canvas and paper. LexJet products have helped us save money and opened up a wider selection of media, especially for hotel projects.”
Though Kahler has the production system down, he says the photography is the foundation of the business. Most of the décor work Kahler does is renditions of his or other photographers’ work that draw from the architecture and areas surrounding the space being decorated.
“I like to explore more deeply into a theme, rather than just capturing an overall shot of a landscape. There are some beautiful landscapes out there, but I like to look deeper at what’s happening under my feet; the small things that people tend to walk by: real interesting elements of nature or architecture in a particular setting,” explains Kahler. “The abstract subject matter is what I like to capture most. Still, it’s important to get many other perspectives. This is why we use many contributing photographers. Some clients don’t like the abstract nature of a scene and some like the overall scene, so we want to be able to give them the option of a variety of styles.”