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John Denver’s Photographs Provide a Glimpse into his Visual Side

When john denver wanted to commune spiritually with the world, he often did so by snapping photographs of the people and the places around him.

“Over the years I’ve always enjoyed taking photos as a way of relaxing,” John Denver told the Denver Post in 1983. “For me it offers a wonderful opportunity to stop and focus on this moment right here and forget all the other things.”

An accomplished shutterbug who shot nearly 10,000 stills (on slide film) on two 35 mm cameras, a Hasselblad, and with eight different lenses, Denver might be best known for his music, but it’s his photos that offer a deeply intimate and privileged glimpse into his soul.
Throughout this year, “Sweet, Sweet Life: The Photographic Work of John Denver,” a collection of Denver’s most powerful photographs — from sunset shots to a capture of the 1969 moon landing on his TV set — has been exhibited at Leon Art Gallery in Denver, the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, and next opens Oct. 24 at L.A.’s Substrate Gallery.

“The work really speaks to a visual diary of his love for the outdoors, the (NASA) space program, his travels in Africa, and the themes relate very closely to his music, which people loved,” says Andrea Wallace, director of photography at Anderson Ranch.
“A lot of what John stood for is represented visually in this show.”

“John was a total gearhead,” adds Amy Abrams, a manager for the John Denver Estate. “He was very much into using the medium of the time and he experimented with different film and film development styles.”

Many of Denver’s photographs will be available for sale at Substrate, the most expensive one, a shadowy self-portrait taken amongst trees, carrying a $2,200 price tag.

“The picture is just so smart,” says Substrate curator Ramses Granados. “Today, we take self-portraits every day because of the technology — we all have iPhones. But back then in the ’70s it was a lot of work to take a photo like this. It’s just brilliant.”

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