My life has been one of roaming – moving around without a connection to any specific place to call home. Over the years, my roaming has evolved into seeking. Finally rooting in a place and calling it home, I am looking for an anchor. The exploration of my ancestry and cultural heritage through photography has created a thread of connectivity from past to present – a thread that is weaving a foundation for me as I begin my family and create a home for them.
I traveled to Norway, Iceland and Ireland to investigate the pastoral roots of my ancestors. When I arrived, I discovered that throughout history, my people and their land have been supported by these animals – goat, sheep and ram. These animals drove the economy for generations and were sources of income and sustenance. They are both ordinary and mythical. While I have spent most of my life on the move, much like these animals, but these animals taught me that roaming can sustain and anchor.
Divine Animals: The Bovidae explores how we see animals in a place, how we shape that place, and how it shapes us. Inspired by the compositions and lighting from landscape paintings from 1850, these photographs aim to elevate and revere the animals that continue to roam my ancestral land to this day.
R. J. Kern is a Minneapolis-based photographer whose work explores animal portraiture as it relates to ideas of home, ancestry, and a sense of place.
He majored in Art & Art History and Environmental Geography from Colgate University and holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder. His career began at the National Geographic Society where he spent five years inspired by some of the world’s finest photographers.
R. J.’s work is represented by Gallery 360 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Ecce Gallery in Fargo, North Dakota.