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
“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
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.