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August 29, 2017

Geof Kern: The Conceptualist

Part two of our feature, “The Image Makers”

Dallas’ reputation as a fashion center stretches back to 1907 and the founding of Neiman Marcus. In the intervening century, the city has witnessed the rise of a thriving creative class of photographers, models, makeup artists, stylists, art directors, and others working to craft fashion magic.

In our August-September print issue we spoke with four visionaries who’ve made names for themselves on the other side of the camera, beginning with Molly Dickson. Here in part two of the piece, meet Geof Kern

Clients don’t come to Geof Kern to execute a vision, but to create one. The Brooklyn native and Brooks Institute grad landed in Dallas in the late 1970s, shooting “mariachi bands and computer boards for TI” until an editor at The Dallas Morning News approached him at a party about a new weekly fashion section the paper was launching. Kern shot every issue for the next two years, honing his style—and picking up clients from Texas Monthly to Matsuda Tokyo to Le Bon Marché—with such surrealistic images as a disembodied head in a birdcage for a beauty story. Butterflies lofting an armchair made a memorable rst cover of the Neiman Marcus magazine, The Book. For the store’s 1995 Art of Fashion campaign, Kern spent his entire $300,000 budget on production costs.

“I’m not a fashion photographer. I’m not a this or a that. I photograph ideas” —Geof Kern

Photographed in England, the narrative depicting “a young girl who falls asleep and dreams of becoming a famous fashion model” was named the year’s best advertising campaign by Time magazine. Kern was tapped for a second Art of Fashion portfolio this past spring. Eleven images from that series, dubbed “Blue Skies,” were presented gallery-style at NorthPark Center in May. Dallas’ PDNB Gallery and Fahey-Klein Gallery in Los Angeles have also exhibited Kern’s work. Next project? Plumbing the archives at his longtime Medical District studio in advance of a career-spanning monograph he hopes to finish this year. —Tracy Achor Hayes 

Photos | Geof Kern