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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 1:07 pm | Overcast 60º


Artist Uses Camera to Paint a Portrait of Solstice Parade

Kevin Steele's photography captures the magic of Santa Barbara's creative genius

Don’t worry if you missed Saturday’s Solstice Parade, Santa Barbara freelance photographer Kevin Steele captured the outrageous costumes and whimsical movements in a series of portraits snatched before the parade hit State Street.

From hula hoops and unicycles to Alice in Wonderland characters and Elvis impersonators, the gallery bursts with energy.

Last year, Steele photographed the Solstice Parade through the traditional route — out on the street snapping action shots. This year he took a different approach.

“I wanted to capture something out of the ordinary,” he told Noozhawk. “All of the costumes are so colorful that I decided to photograph them with a completely white background. You never see that perspective while you’re watching the parade. There is so much color and creativity.”

As a self-taught fulltime photographer, Steele specializes in action, motion and lifestyle images for editorial and commercial clients. Some of his previous clients include BBC, National Geographic, Newsweek, Parade Magazine, Patagonia, Men’s Journal, Microsoft, Random House, Brooks Institute and UCSB.

Steele provided Noozhawk with extensive coverage during the Jesusita Fire.

Equipped with a 10-foot-by-30-foot white background and lighting equipment donated by Samy’s Camera for the day, he also had the help of his son, Nico, who acted as photographer’s assistant.

“Just before the parade began, everyone was in character,” Steele said. “Everyone was so fresh. Some of the best images came from the ones who really took on their character. They were acting out on the stage, so to speak.”

Complete with costumes and freshly applied makeup, each character had a couple of minutes to shine in front of the camera.

Photographer Kevin Steele, hanging out.
Photographer Kevin Steele, hanging out. (Kevin Steele photo / www.kevsteele.com)

“Many had never done this before,” he said. “Some were shy in front of the camera, but once they told themselves, ‘OK, this is my character,’ then they really shone.”

In just three hours, a total of 160 parade performers came through Steele’s makeshift studio in David Shelton’s metalworking studio at the corner of Cota Street and Fig Avenue. Claudia Bratton, executive director of the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration, suggested Shelton’s metalworking shop, and he graciously cleared space for the temporary photo shoot.

One man was wearing a dress made of men’s ties and was holding a metal horn. He stood unsure in front of the camera. Steele asked him, “What are you going to do during the parade?” He picked up the horn and gave it a loud blast that reverberated through the studio. That was his shot.

The Mad Hatter barely fit into the studio, Steele said. When he stood up in his checkered pants, his giant hat was one inch from the tallest beam.

“With so many great characters creating and joining the carnival atmosphere it was a visual playground,” Steele said. “I had so much fun shooting this.”

Click here for Steele’s complete gallery of Solstice Parade portraits. Click here for Steele’s portfolio.

Noozhawk intern Andrea Ellickson, a UCSB graduate, is a journalism student at SBCC. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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