Behind the Lens with Green Box Arts Festival photographer Tom Kimmell

Published: November 17, 2020   •   By: Rachel Shortt

For the past 11 years, Green Box has partnered with Tom Kimmell of Tom Kimmell Photography in Colorado Springs to capture the dynamic images that tell the festival’s story. Brought on the second year of the festival in 2010, Kimmell was already a seasoned photographer coming from the newspaper industry with more than 16 years of experience.

“I have always loved covering the Green Box Arts Festival,” said Kimmell. “The opportunity to photograph people enjoying immersive and unexpected art, music, and dance in such a beautiful location is a dream come true.”

The Green Box Arts Festival is known for offering a diverse mix of art, dance, concerts, classes, camps, and community events for residents and visitors to enjoy each summer. The organization and festival have grown and annually attract more than 1,000 attendees. Kimmell says Green Box’s commitment to the community is a gift to the people and state of Colorado.

“Local residents really appreciate the festival’s quality performances, installation art, and music—things we normally would not get here,” he said. “It is through the incredible vision of Green Box co-founders Christian Keesee, Larry Keigwin, and Blake Keesee, that this festival has come to life in the mountains of Colorado. They have proven you don’t have to go to Vail or Aspen to experience world-class events—everything you need is in this quant, little town.”

Kimmell’s ability to capture the raw beauty of both living and installation art against the backdrop of charming Green Mountain Falls has not only eloquently portrayed the high-caliber of dance, music, and contemporary art, but his images have also invigorated a new crop of visitors each year to experience the Festival. “I have truly enjoyed witnessing the festival grow year after year and watching the vision of the founders come to life,” he said.

While Kimmell can’t necessarily pinpoint a favorite subject to photograph, he is particularly drawn to dance.

“I enjoy photographing dance, as you cannot beat the settings available at the Festival,” said Kimmell. “At Bear Crossing Studio for example, I’ve had the joy of photographing world-class dancers surrounded by breathtaking Aspen trees and majestic mountains. During one performance at a donor party, the sun was coming right through the trees at the perfect moment—you can’t ask for better stage lighting than that!”

While each art installation offered different experiences, Kimmell said Cloud City by Tomás Saraceno was a favorite to photograph. “It was unique for that particular piece to be in the setting of puffy clouds, evergreen trees, and nature’s authentic beauty, as it had previously been on the rooftop of The Met in New York City,” said Kimmell.

Kimmell also enjoys the interaction he has with artists and performers, getting to be a virtual fly on the wall capturing their creative practice and watching them in their element. “It’s a full, up-close, intimate experience you just can’t find anywhere else,” he said.

Kimmell fondly recalls a particular memory with American sculptor and fiber artist, Janet Echelman.

“Janet and I went out to observe her installation, 1.8 Green Mountain Falls, over Gazebo Lake one evening and she was absolutely enthralled with the reflections of her piece in the lake water,” said Kimmell. “Every creative photographer loves to play with mirrored images, and it was so thrilling to watch her reaction. I knew she has had her work all over the world, so it was exciting to realize this installation was not only unique and special for Green Mountain Falls, but for her body of work as well.”

In 2012, Kimmell bore witness to the Waldo Canyon fire, a disaster that caused the evacuation of more than 32,000 residents of Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and Woodland Park, as well as several small mountain communities, including Green Mountain Falls.

“I was working when I saw smoke coming up from the hillside and realized a true catastrophe was ensuing,” said Kimmell. “It was heartbreaking to watch the burning of homes and lives being destroyed. I feel similarities this year with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as many folks feel helpless. However, this is a very resilient community, and we can come back from anything.”

Due to the pandemic, the Green Box Arts Festival looked a little different this year, but Kimmell was still behind the lens, capturing five new installations that were brought to town. He says capturing the flavor of the moment, no matter what is thrown his way, is just part of the job.

“The opportunity to capture images in breathtaking settings is every photographer’s fantasy,” said Kimmell. I feel like I’m part of a family, part of something impactful and important—and it’s very inspiring energy to be around.”

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