Susan Kerr reveals images of her life in a series of stops and starts that unfold like a photo collage.
Kerr began taking photos of the local music scene during an eventful two years in Los Angeles circa 1968 to 1970. Although the musicians she met and captured on film reads like a list of famous names in rock and roll, how Kerr wound up in California to begin with is a story in itself.
“I had a thing for guitar players back in the day,” she explained. “Ritchie Blackmore, (one of the founding members of Deep Purple) picked me out of a crowd at a show in Seattle asked if I’d go out with him. I said OK, and we got together on and off when the band was in town. I went on a mini tour with them and wound up in L.A.”
Although the relationship ended when Deep Purple returned to England, Kerr stayed in L.A. and got a job with Teen Screen magazine in Hollywood as a production director. “I did all kinds of interviews, saw lots of shows and premieres. I met so many rock stars and got to see them play. It was really incredible.” Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, John Denver, Ringo Starr and Iron Butterfly, to name but a few.
In 1970, Kerr moved to Vancouver Island, where her parents had purchased some property. “L.A. had become a series of rat races and the glamour had worn off,” she explained.
She worked at Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo for seven years before deciding to go to art school, a pursuit her father had forbidden because he didn’t believe it would pay enough to make a decent living. Art classes at Malaspina College led to work as an illustrator for the Pacific Biological Station. She then went to work for the South Pacific Commission in New Caledonia as a scientific illustrator. That led to a decision to attend a riding academy in France to combine a variety of pursuits.
Kerr’s love of horses began when she was growing up in Edmonton, she shared over coffee in Langford, where she has lived for the past 11 years. “I’ve been passionate about horses since I first sat on a milkman’s horse when I was three. I had a wonderful opportunity to ride at the National Riding School in Saumur. It was an absolutely incredible experience. It combined my love of riding with learning a different language. My dad had a Brownie box camera when I was a kid, and I used to take pictures all the time. I started taking pictures of people riding in events and before long I was making more money than I had illustrating.”
That changed when she returned to Canada in 1987 and realized the logistics of a much larger country would not support an income based on simply shooting equestrian events.
Kerr maintained a riding stable throughout, however, and always managed to find work training horses. She opened an art gallery as well and crafted wooden signs, specializing in unique creations for local businesses.
“It seems everything I ever did was eventually taken over by computers,” she noted. “There was no more hand lettering for signs because everything could be done faster on a computer.”
Ironically, it was a stroll past a computer store that launched Kerr in a different direction. “I saw a camera plugged into a Mac in the window and decided right there to combine my passion for horses and photography into something that went in many different directions, besides just equestrian shows.”
Kerr has carved out a niche from behind the lens shooting a variety of subjects since returning to the Island in 2002. She’s worked at the Calgary Stampede and travelled to Nantucket, Rhode Island to photograph horses on the beach for Katja Schumann, a world-famous circus horse trainer. Kerr has photographed horse shows in Fort Worth, Texas and Las Vegas, and makes an annual trek to a ranch in Washington state to work with a client, Ami MacHugh, who has become a close friend. “She’s one of the most amazing, beautiful women I’ve ever met,” Kerr said. “That’s led to tributaries of other work as well.”
Kerr keeps creative at 71 doing graphic design for the Victoria Blues Society and photo shoots of bands as well.
“I’m semi-retired now but still do some photography, including the Courtenay Music Festival for the past five years. That’s where I’m at right now. I’ve had a lot of fun over the years and plan on continuing to do that.”
Check out susankerrphotography.com for a look at her work.