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Art & Life with Rodger Klein

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rodger Klein.

Rodger, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I live and work in Venice Beach where I have lived for many years, I have a very eclectic background. I started out as an artist, earning an MFA in studio art at UCLA. In order to make a living, I started working in television, back in the day before you could easily edit and produce videos on your desktop.

It was a creative way to have fun and make a living, but after a number of years, I was looking for something different. I had taught photo and video on the college level, and I wanted to get back into teaching. I also wanted something that involved the marine environment. I took a vacation and did a little intro scuba course, came home, got into a full certification class, and a year later I was teaching scuba in the Caribbean.

After working in the Caribbean and Hawaii on and off for six years I started traveling internationally as a contributing field editor for several dive magazines. So, for about 20 years, with bags full of dive and photo gear, I was spending about five months a year traveling primarily to Asia. Needless to say, after all that time traveling, I was getting pretty burned out. I needed a change.

With art, photography, and scuba skills, underwater photography was a natural extension. After a number of years photographing marine life and writing magazine articles for dive and adventure magazines, I wanted to go back to my artistic roots. So, my entire background has merged into what I’m doing now. But I must say even though I have many-faceted visual styles if I had to make a choice, diving, and underwater work would always be my first choice.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I am an artist currently living in obscurity. Sad but true.

Although my work is not exclusive to underwater imagery, this seems to be the most interesting (for others) when I discuss what I do, so I will focus primarily on that for this interview.

Most underwater photographers start as divers. In my case, I was an image-maker long before I began diving. After more than 20 years making images of marine life, I thought it was time for a change. I wanted to do something that would take me back to my early artistic roots but still keep me wet.

My vision was to have a clear, warm and controlled environment where I could push the limits of creativity and still breathe underwater. After three years of design and construction, the vision was realized: a custom-designed 11-foot-deep saltwater studio pool and a large 1000 sq ft studio. The pool has 20 embedded mounts to attach off-camera underwater strobes.; it can easily be heated to 86°F-90°F, temperatures comfortable to be in even without thermal protection; and it has two lower-level viewing windows so observers can watch or shoot video of a project without getting wet.

Pool photography has become very popular over the last few years. Most are shooting in normal residential pools that have a shallow end where an untrained model and a non-diver photographer can shoot without the help of scuba since all they have to do is stand up to get air. (I know some who don’t even know how to swim!) This simple approach has allowed many to jump on this “underwater pool photography” bandwagon.

My approach is much more complex and requires special skills and my imagery is more edgy and abstract. My pool and shooting style requires skills that most models and photographers don’t have. For models, this is because they need to learn to be comfortable in a deep-water setting and learn to breathe on a scuba regulator. As a result, I never shoot anyone in the pool who I have not evaluated and trained first, even before a shoot date is scheduled. Every spring, I post a casting call on several model websites to see who might be interested in trying shooting underwater. I get many responses but very few can make the cut. Sometimes, I get models who show promise but are not 100% comfortable. That’s why pre-shoot training is essential.

You can read more about my process at this link: https://leftbankmag.com/2018/12/18/dive-in-with-rod-klein/
or check out this article on my website: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/565b4364e4b0f06765fc5878/t/58abb7361b631ba9d7adfa77/1487648567379/Alert+Diver.pdf

I’m pretty much overshooting models in flowing gowns underwater. To me, all those images a basically the same the only difference being what they are wearing.

Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
It’s very hard to make a living as an artist or creative individual in today’s world. Most of my artist friends all have “day jobs” that help pay the bills but keep on working on their creative projects. I don’t use social media very much but that is certainly a great option for those who can put the time into developing a following.

In the world of social media, I guess one has to feel comfortable promoting themselves, that isn’t my first choice for my work.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
One can visit my website: www.rhkuw.com or visit my Instagram page: @rhkunderwaterphoto. I no longer even consider myself a “photographer” and certainly not a “marine life” photographer, don’t show any marine life images or models in flowing gowns on the website. However, I have a number of magazine articles I have written posts on the website which you can find here: http://www.rhkuw.com/articles

I do have a variety of work on the IG feed.

I have had some gallery showings of my work: 3 shows at Gloria Delson Contemporary Arts, downtown L.A., and at the Ventura Museum of Art, but getting traction in the art world is quite difficult. I am looking for gallery representation. I feel my work deserves consideration in that area.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Rodger Klein Artist
    Venice Studio Pool
    1627 Crescent Place
    Venice, Ca 90291
  • Website: www.rhkuw.com
  • Phone: 3104044159
  • Email: rhkdiver2gmail.com
  • Instagram: rhkunderwaterphoto

Image Credit:
All images were created by Rodger Klein

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