Joe McKewen

Joe McKewen-Photographing People As They Are

Written by Gregg Dewalt on Feb. 24, 1984

“I try to photograph people as they are at the present time.”

Such is Joe McKewen’s philosophy on his main line of photography-senior portraits.

The highly regarded photographer has spoken to several different groups about the topic and most recently had an article published in a photography trade magazine.

“Seniors are the most exciting group of individuals you can photograph,” he says. “They will let you try anything with a camera.”

McKewen gets his work in each year, having photographed seniors from nine different high schools in the area. This year, we have photographed seniors from Booneville, Thrasher, New Site, Jumpertown, Walnut, Burnsville, McNairy Central, Savannah and Adamsville.

McKewen tries to keep one step ahead of the competition by being extremely innovative with his portraits. “I’m always looking for a change in the way to photograph them,” McKewen adds. In the past, he has used double exposures, created postage stamps and magazine covers for his subjects.

“In a way, I’m helping people fulfill a fantasy,” he says. That’s the reason for creating the magazine covers with an individual’s face on it. For the guys, there is the Macho magazine cover. For the girl’s, its Glamour Teen and then there’s Senior, 84.

Today’s senior can come in and request either of two packages of photographs, deluxe or standard, but most seniors choose the deluxe. “The deluxe features more shots in various outfits and it takes longer to shoot.”

The highly respected photographer got into photography purely for economic reasons. “I started out in journalism and they paid 15 cents per column inch. They paid $3.00 per photograph, so it didn’t take me long to figure out I could make more money taking pictures.”

From there, McKewen put in his own darkroom while attending Northeast and then attended Brooks Institute in California. His career blossomed from there is now one of the more respected photographers in the south.

McKewen has become a master in his trade, an honor which very few obtain. “To become a master, the photographer has to have had at least 12 prints hung in the National Exhibit.

In addition to his title, McKewen has been a past president of the Mississippi Photographers Association and was honored as the Mississippi Photographer of the Year.

“Each individual photographer has their own individual style,” he comments.

McKewen has worked hard to develop his own style and adds that it pays not to get lazy “because someone is always there to take your business.”

“If you do a good job, it brings in more business through word of mouth.”

And McKewen’s track record proves that he hasn’t been lazy during his career.

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