DEAD MAN'S FLATS – If there’s a song that could describe Kristian Bogner’s life, it’d be Johnny Cash’s I’ve Been Everywhere.
But if it was going to be accurate, it’d be twice as long just to fit in half the places the Bow Valley photographer has been in his career as one of the most renowned commercial shooters in the business.
Bogner received the Yousuf Karsh lifetime achievement award from the Professional Photographers of Canada in addition to taking home commercial photographer of the year for the fourth time. He also won bronze with Team Canada at the World Photographic Cup in Italy.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Bogner said of his career. “Photography’s been my only job and I’ve only worked for myself. It’s really cool.”
In his mid-40s, Bogner still has decades ahead to add to his resume but the lifetime achievement award is among the highlights. With only 18 photographers receiving the honour, he said being recognized with the award – which his dad Thies Bogner won in 2006 – was a unique experience.
“It was a complete surprise. I don’t really think of myself at that stage in my life. It was a complete shock,” he said.
Bogner said he tuned into the awards, but didn’t know the lifetime achievement award was on the horizon. It wasn’t until they mentioned the winner came from a photography family and the photographer was related to a previous winner that he clued in.
“I was shocked. … They announced my name and I dedicated the award to my dad. He’s been a rock in my life. … Out of all the awards, my proudest moment was being able to call him up and tell him we now share something special.”
Photographers are able to gain print merits through annual image competitions and national accreditation. The lifetime achievement award comes to photographers with more than 4,000 points, and with roughly 4,600, it was Bogner’s time to get the hard sought after prize.
A panel of master photographers judges the work to select and award the top photographers in Canada.
“Photographers must show extraordinary talent to win an award among such illustrious company,” said Tina Weltz, chair of the national exhibition committee for PPOC in a press release.
Bogner is one of four master photographers in his family line, with his parents Thies and Audrey and grandfather Nikolai all earning high recognition.
Nikolai came to Canada from West Germany in the early 1950s and opened four studios, while Thies and Audrey Bogner have had a studio in Welland for more than 50 years. Bogner said his dad specializes in industrial, commercial and wedding photography and his mom portrait and fashion gave him a well-rounded balance and eye for “capturing energy”.
“It’s really neat to have those two sides to photography. Most photographers will tell you it’s better to get known for something specific, but I feel fulfillment and challenge wise you’re better to continue to grow.”
Bogner grew up in the Niagara-area of Ontario, began his company at 16 years of age and had an early interest in digital imaging and building his own computers. He graduated from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario and among his early highlights was having a photo on the cover of Time Magazine and a two-page photospread in the prestigious publication.
He moved to Canmore about 25 years ago and now resides in Dead Man’s Flats. The longtime valley resident decided to move to the area in his early 20s after visiting Lake Louise to see friends.
He credited a photography contract signed with Niagara Parks – which gave him early financial security – to take the risk of making the cross-country trek.
“If I sign this contract, I’m going to live in Ontario and do all my friends' weddings, take over my mom and dad’s studio and this is going to be my life,” he said. “I realized I needed to move out here and I came to Canmore.”
Among his first local clients were Blair Richardson and Three Sisters Golf Resorts, which led to a long-term commercial deal. But as time went on, Bogner gained clients that took him across the world, shooting multiple Olympics, having work shown at the World Economic Forum, working for the United Nations and having the craft take him across North America, Europe and Africa.
“He kept giving me my shot and it grew from there,” Bogner said of Richardson. “They really believed in me.”
Bogner became a Nikon Ambassador – one of seven in Canada – who are allowed to show the public and professional photographers Nikon products and the capabilities they have. Bogner is also an ambassador for Broncolor, Lowepro and Manfrotto.
The third-generation master photographer was previously recognized as the international photographer of the year in 2018 by the Masters Photographers International Association (MPIA) as well as a two-time commercial photographer of the year recipient with the MPIA.
While more inclined to use Adobe Photoshop early in his career, he said a priority has been on having the bulk of the work done by the camera. It was a message he voiced at the World Photographic Cup in Italy earlier this month, which featured award winners and nominees from 2020-22.
“This idea I would fix it later became something I would only be able to do as a backup. I try to do more and more in camera. … It’s unsustainable to spend five or 10 hours on an image. … I don’t want to make it about the Photoshop, I want to make it about the image and cultivate a collection of images that are at a standard.”
Describing his style as illustrative and colourful, Bogner said he’s turned more to sustainability projects such as initiatives of water treatment in Rwanda or carbon capture to help make asphalt in Zurich, Switzerland.
“At this stage in my career, I’ve realized that rather than glorifying myself for Instagram followers I’m trying to say yes to projects that are making a positive difference and I’m trying to say yes to projects that create sustainability or at least an awareness.”
There are likely to be many more photography projects and honours in his future, but Bogner said the lifetime achievement will likely be top amongst any future accolades.
“I’m in really good company of people who have won it in Canada and I’m really proud of that.”