If you grew up in the 80's, it would be difficult not to have seen the work of photographer Ken Haak. I didn't know it was Haak's work at the time, in fact although many of his images were familiar to me,it wasn't until recently that the art was finally connected with the name of the artist. Today's theme featuring Haak's imagery, comes indirectly thanks to actor William Katt.
Last month I did a piece on the blog, Tis The Season, focused on the stress surrounding senior proms. For the story, I used images of Katt, specifically during his time appearing in Carrie. A long time reader of the blog e-mailed me about the piece, and helped me in obtaining a copy of one of Katt's first films, First Love.
When I asked the reader about his favorite photographers, Ken Haak was at the top of his list. Haak was mainly known for fashion photography but put out a couple of books featuring male imagery which many of you might remember. I was surprised when researching how familiar the artist's work was to me, I immediately recognized Haak's image on the cover of Working Out, a book I remember seeing, and staring at, on book shelves when I was a kid. I was also a bit surprised how little info about Haak himself was out there. Thanks to the long time reader who so generously scanned some of Haak's images for me to share. Thanks also to Find A Grave who had the most detailed info on Haak which I am sharing below.
Ken Haak was a celebrated fashion photographer. A native of Glendale, California, Haak attended the Art Center School in Los Angeles, where he studied painting and graphic design. Upon graduation, he moved to New York City and became an art director and graphic designer. He built a reputation in graphic design that led to receiving New York Art Director's Club Awards. His posters for The New York Times were exhibited by and formally entered into the permanent graphic design collection of The Museum of Modern Art.
In mid-career he became a self-taught explorer in fashion photography who played light and shadow against skin and fabric to not simply dramatize the clothes, but exalt the body as well. His images reflect his strong sense of design in a style and manner both classic and contemporary. He elicits from his subjects images of intense eroticism and sensuality that convey both an innocence and candor uncommon in their warmth and beauty and sense of the human ideal.
His photographs have appeared in such diverse publications as American Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Playboy, Essence, Interview, and Men's Bazaar Italia. His books include "Ken Haak's Private Collection," "Summer Souvenirs," "Sleeping Beauties" and the illustrations for the exercise book "Working Out." (Rosehill Press, 122 E. 30th St. New York, NY)
Haak was the owner of Rosehill Press publishing. He was a graduate of Art Center School , Los Angeles, CA. He served in World War II in the US Army ETO HQ Co. 821st T D Battalion. He was awarded the meritorious service unit plaque; participated in campaigns in Normandy, northern France and Germany.
'This collection of private photographs that are now shared with others for the first time are from an endeavor that has extended over a period of many years. This endeavor represents an unfaltering dedication to preserving images that will remain eternally young. Images that are distinguished by their warmth and beauty (and) marked by an intense eroticism.'
What I love so much Ken's work in Summer Souvenirs is how well his images conjure up such specific memories of summers gone by. The morning light, squinting because of the blazing sunlight, hot sun on skin, washing the sand off, and out of your body after a long day at the beach. Summer sand has a smell, a mixture of salty and sweet with the the suntan lotion and salt from the ocean.
'It's been almost 19 years since I posed for that book and every Labor Day I think back to that day on the beach working with Ken.'
One of the most interesting things I found while researching Summer Souvenirs was the quote above under the title, Who is the center fold !! found on the review section for the book on Amazon. I tried finding the author, Thomas J McDonnell but sadly came up empty. Still, the quote is fun and again speaks to the power of the book, and it's images, to manifest memories.
Forgive the lame pun but there was something about these images, also from Ken Haak Summer Souvenirs, that stood out to me. It has nothing to do with the models, but all about the material they lie, sit on and stand in front of, the summer wood.
There really is a difference between wood in the fall and winter and in the summer. I really had not thought too much about it until one of these images brought me back to the feel and smell of a deck chair I spent so many hours in during one specific summer. The summer sun tends to highlight aspects and flaws in the wood you normally would not notice. Anyone who has spent a summer on a beach with a boardwalk or a cottage knows what I am talking about.
The smell the sun brings out of cedar or pine. The splinters you have to be careful of when picking up a boat oar. The peeling paint from a wooden chair or bench that needs some care. The harsh brittleness of the wooden shingles on a house, beaten down from the sun and salty air.