DPP Home Profiles Jesse Kalisher: World Traveler

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jesse Kalisher: World Traveler

Jesse Kalisher’s unique talent for going beyond the snapshot and an intimate knowledge of marketing make a winning combination

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It’s not easy to put a label on Jesse Kalisher’s eclectic body of work. Kalisher takes pride in going out of his way to find the vantage points that everyone else misses at popular tourist destinations. A visual punster, he often interjects a scene with a bit of humor. Above: Egyptian pyramids just as dawn breaks.

Clouds roll in over San Francisco.
Fine-art photography is a tough sell, especially in a tough economy, and Jesse Kalisher has managed to keep himself and his tightly knit staff afloat throughout one of the toughest economies in decades. Threading a keen Elliott Erwitt-esque sense of humor into a fine-art approach to travel photography, Kalisher’s list of accreditations and accolades is no less impressive than his body of work. He counts Nikon, Adobe, Lowepro and Lexar amongst his sponsors, and he also has managed to expand his brand during an economic downturn, including the grand opening of his own Jesse Kalisher Gallery just outside his newly adopted home of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He has exhibited throughout the U.S., and Kalisher is featured in a prominent selection of museums and galleries, with multiple prints in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian, not the least of which are the very first two prints of President Obama to be acquired by the venerable institute.

His limited-edition prints are sought after by noted collectors, and famous architect Frank Gehry owns an abstract that Kalisher composed of the metallic exterior of Gehry’s design for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Kalisher’s prints are also available in a variety of storefronts and travel destinations, and they have been offered as pre-framed pieces in Target stores across the country, which he notes “rounds out my philosophy that everyone should have access to affordable art.” Also affordable? A set of color and black-and-white iGoogle page skins by Kalisher that were downloaded for free by more than 100,000 people within a few days of the iGoogle launch. You even can find Kalisher prints in national hotel chains, and his images populate the set designs of a number of films and television shows.
I kind of rebel against having one thing, he explains. My ‘one thing’ is photography. I want permission to be able to do everything, whether street photography or architectural work. It’s all just geometry, shapes and story to me.

Latin American bikers in Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán. Two of the bikers actually were from the U.S.
Kalisher’s multi-pronged attack to the back end allows him to truly maximize the potential of each and every image that he takes, and it’s an attitude that’s also reflected in the way in which he chooses to shoot. Absolutely refusing to be pigeonholed as this kind of photographer or that, Kalisher’s range and chosen subjects are diverse, and he frequently finds himself taking pictures of any number of subjects even when working on a specific project.

“I kind of rebel against having one thing,” he explains. “My ‘one thing’ is photography. I want permission to be able to do everything, whether street photography or architectural work. It’s all just geometry, shapes and story to me.”

Around The World
The son of photographer Simon Kalisher, it’s ironic that Kalisher didn’t pick up a camera in any sort of professional capacity until he was well into his 30s. Up to that point, he had been concentrating his considerable efforts into establishing a successful career in advertising and marketing in the cutthroat arenas of San Francisco and New York. He was doing well financially, but was extremely dissatisfied with the direction that his life had taken.


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