Seabrook photographer finds the extraordinary in the ordinary
Photographer and cinematographer Chris Kuhlman is surrounded by all the professional tools of the trade in his Seabrook home office. There are cameras, video and sound equipment, monitors, computers and laptop. A view of Galveston Bay and shore birds adds to the creative process when he’s working on a project.
Kuhlman has traveled the world taking pictures and videos for clients in such places as Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Indonesia and the Galápagos Islands. But he sees much of his work come to fruition in his own backyard.
Through his work as a photographer for the Port of Houston Authority, Kuhlman has captured images of terminals, tall cranes and just about everything that goes up and down the Houston Ship Channel.
“My job as a photographer is to find the extraordinary in the ordinary,” Kuhlman said. “For instance, when I see something as common as a pigeon fly toward my bird feeder, I see the iridescent colors, not just the bird itself.”
This is evident in photographs hanging in the Kuhlman home. One in particular is of a group of kayaks.
“I was on my honeymoon in New Zealand with my wife, Jessica, and we were looking for a place to camp and paddle out,” Kuhlman said. “I saw this beautiful lake, so we spent the night there. The next morning, a van pulled in and unloaded an array of colorful kayaks. The water was like glass and the vivid colors of the yellow, red and blue boats on that still lake presented me with an amazing photo op.”
Kuhlman’s love of the lens started early in life when his parents purchased a beach house in Galveston’s Sea Isle. He was 11 years old, bought a surfboard and got interested in surfing magazines. It was the photography in those magazines that caught his eye.
By age 12, he bought his first camera — a Nikkormat FTn with a 400 mm lens. With that camera, he started taking long distance surfing photographs. Little did he know it would jump start his career.
“I got hired when I was 13 by a real estate developer on the West End to take photos of an event and they paid me,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, I can make money doing this,’ so that’s when I knew what I wanted to do.”
After graduating from Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif., Kuhlman opened CK Productions in 1977 and has photographed professionally ever since.
“What I do is a calling,” he said. “You can’t just want to be a photographer. You have to have the passion.”
Some of Kuhlman’s other clients include Space Center Houston, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston Airport Systems and the Transitional Learning Center in Galveston. He also does work for Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to accelerate a cure for children’s cancer.
Producing and directing TV commercials makes up more than half the work he does now.
With today’s digital photography, it’s easier to learn from your mistakes, he said.
“Someone just starting out can see instantly whether or not they’ve got the right picture,” he said. “Yet, anybody can get an image. It doesn’t replace having vision and knowing when to push the button. That’s a learned process.”