Mitch Kern

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Portrait of Ken Graves.

Mitch Kern (born 1965 New York City) is an American photographer living in Canada whose work explores the relationship between the individual and society. Kern uses portrait photography as a vehicle for social commentary.

Born in New York City, raised in Los Angeles, Kern has an MFA in photography from Penn State University, exhibits internationally, and is currently a faculty member in the School of Visual Arts at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

Early career[edit]

Portraiture is the thread that runs through his work. Since the early 90s he has produced a body of images that explore the psychology of the human condition. Portraits produced on location dominate his early photographic output.

In the mid 90s he attends the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where his work takes on a stylized approach. In the late 90s he begins a decade long run working for the mainstream media as an editorial content provider. At the same time he begins a deluge of conceptually driven self-portraits.

His representations become more defined when entering the graduate art program at Penn State. Studying with Ken Graves and Charles Garoian he creates visual metaphors of cultural identity, begins enlarging portraits to life size proportions and lays down some formal ground rules; a camera positioned at eye level, a softly lit subject, and a direct, symmetrical gaze.

Mid career[edit]

Kern’s portraits display an objective style. Relaxed expressions and seamless backgrounds signify a quest to portray cultural identity through the lens of postmodernism.

His photographs are a commentary on race, class and gender and a manifestation of the premise that human identity is a social construct, the result of complex political forces that are difficult to track and hard to predict.

In addition to producing studio and location portraits his work includes mainstream advertising, editorial work, video, sculpture, and performance art. He continues to teach and speak about art in Canada, the U.S. and abroad.