A Brief History of KenMar Studio
“Why is my studio named KenMar?”
is one of the more frequently asked questions I hear, so I’ll start there. I’m Todd and my parents, Kenneth and Margaret Kunstman, established the studio around 1954, the year I was born. In a way, the profession chose me since part of my last name, Kunst, means artist. Perhaps my dad and I were destined to do this. For him it was a passion that he pursued as soon as he got out of the Army. For me, I fell into it by accident. Literally.
Even though I grew up with a photography studio in the home, I took no interest in it early on.
I just thought every kid had a camera room in their house and a darkroom in their basement. My involvement came about when my dad and his assistant were in a car accident. They needed someone to help out during their recuperation and I needed a job to support my perpetual college student lifestyle. That was 1984.
By then I had had a taste of what it was like working at a factory and as a laborer for for a corporation and I knew I’d never be able to do that for a living. Here was a way to work 14 hours a day 7 days a week for myself? Fair enough. Sign me up!
Within 5 years my wife Debbie and I had quadrupled the amount of business and then bought the business from my parents in 1990. By 2002 we went from working in a camera room that was my parents’ living room to one of the largest portrait studios in the state along with several acres of wooded land with a bubbling stream going through it and built our dream studio. We had become KenMar 2.0.
During those years I learned a lot from my dad.
Mostly by trying all the things he told me would never work. (What happens if I use my main light as a fill and vice versa?) My dad was usually right. I made a lot of mistakes. I admire him a lot. In a way, I’m still working for him even though he died many years ago. He brought me to my first WPPA convention and introduced me to the icons of the industry. I was slowly getting hooked. I read every book and watched every video attended every seminar, every convention, and joined every organization to learn more. I cannot imagine how I could have progressed with out these organizations and the camaraderie of people who speak the language of photography and running a business.
Blessing and a curse
Soon, I couldn’t help noticing lighting and composition. My eyes learned to see everything as a two dimensional image. Now I couldn’t turn it off if I tried. When I see an image of someone with a tree behind them, my brain tells me that the tree is literally growing out of their head. It’s a blessing and a curse.
I GET to work!
I still am at the studio 10 -14 hours a day. I don’t have to work that much, I get to work that much. It’s become my playground. I get to create there. To build, paint, landscape, do marketing, create mailers, tweak the website, play in the stream, trim the trees, plant the flower garden… You name it, my hand is in it. My skin is over it. My imagination a part of it.
My wife Debbie works does most of the sales and the production and does all of the accounting and clerical work. This is our baby. Speaking of which, our daughter Sarah, is the brains that orchestrates the chaos into harmony. KenMar 3.0?
99.9% of the photography created right here
We specialize in high school seniors and families, along with some commercial work, with 99.9% of the photography created right here. Most of any marketing success has been a result of the friendships I’ve created through WPPA. Most of the awards I’ve earned have also been a result of those same relationships.
19 years in a row of top awards
One of the awards I’m most proud of is 19 years in a row of top awards for my high school folios. More awards for high school portfolios than all area photographers combined! Some of the awards are BEST IN WISCONSIN, PEOPLE’S CHOICE, BEST OF SHOW, PHOTOGRAPHER’S CHOICE, PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR, BEST MALE FOLIO etc..
Professional Photographers Association
Since 1985 I’ve been a member of the PPA (Professional Photographers of America), WPPA (Wisconsin Professional Photographers Association), and the FVPPA (Fox Valley Professional Photographers Association), serving as the President of FVPPA twice. I’m currently a member of the WPPA board and serve as its historian and archivist.
I earned my Certification in 1990, my Masters a few years after that, and have lectured at the WPPA conventions before and will be again in 2019.
I also received a national ANNE award for my marketing. While the awards are nice, my thrill is in seeing what I’ve created on a day to day basis.
Artist at Heart
I’m still that student that got interrupted between semesters to help out at the studio. I still am insatiably curious. I’d go back to school in a heartbeat. In my fantasy I’m an aging rock star still playing guitar or piano when the creativity needs a place to bubble out. I love keeping up with new music and culture. My contact with the high school students helps keep me current keeping me tragically hip for someone in their mid 60s.
I’ll see you at KenMar Studio where I’ll be giving demonstrations on posing and lighting as well as tidbits of wisdom I’ve gleaned over the years.
Here is a video to illustrate the above text: