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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

See Grinnell through Saunders’ lens

Ken Saunders’ photos will be on display in Burling basement now until October 15th. Photo contributed.
Ken Saunders' photos will be on display in Burling basement now until October 15th. Photo contributed.
Ken Saunders’ photos will be on display in Burling basement now until October 15th. Photo contributed.

By Jon Sundby

For years, Grinnellians had seen Ken Saunders II working around campus in Facilities Management until he retired last year. But they knew little about his other line of work as a prolific nature photographer. Ever since he bought his first camera when he was just seven years old, Saunders has been attempting to capture the beauty of the flora and fauna in his home state of Iowa and all around the nation. Now, this part of his life has finally come to campus.

“Portraits of Nature in Iowa” is a collection of photos by Saunders that will be shown in the basement of Burling Library from now until Oct. 15. All the pictures were taken within a forty-mile radius of Grinnell, with many of them being captured just five miles away in Jasper County. The photographs are all close range shots of Iowan animals, bugs and plants in their natural environments. Attached to each picture is a lengthy description of the subject, covering everything from their territorial range, to their eating habits and even their historical significance.

“[Saunders] is, in addition to being extremely talented with his camera, also meticulous. He is very careful about his information. His write-ups are … very well-crafted and very informative,” said Jon Andelson, director of Prairie Studies at the College, who originally proposed the idea of the exhibit to Saunders.

Quiet and humble by nature, Saunders has never publically shown his art. Andelson first approached Saunders about the idea after the two saw each other at a photography workshop conducted by Grinnell’s campus photographer Justin Hayworth. At first Saunders was dismissive of the idea, but he slowly warmed up to the prospect of an exhibition and soon was sending Andelson dozens of high-quality pictures.

“He came over with a flash drive full of photographs and a couple of us sat down and said ‘we love that one, and that one, and that one; how are we going to choose?’” Andelson said.

The exhibit also shows off Saunders’ technical side, as each picture is paired with an extensive list of details about the camera. Not only the model and make of the camera is given, but also information about the shutter speeds, ISO brightness, aperture size and even the type of hinge on his tripod. It’s almost like Saunders is trying to push the viewer to go out and attempt to recreate the picture themselves.

And maybe he is. In his own biography written for the exhibit, Saunders explains that one of the goals of the exhibit is to inspire future generations to take care of the land, so that new hikers, backpackers, kayakers and especially photographers, will be able to take the same enjoyment from the Iowa prairie that he currently does.

Although not one for the limelight, Saunders will come back to Grinnell on Friday, Sept. 2, to both talk a little about his pieces and to simply meet with all the students and faculty who have enjoyed his work.

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