(Image from August 2010. c. Amy Koontz Knippel Photography, Inc .)
My purpose is to show the beauty of being on the planet. “I love getting into that creative mode where the mind turns off, the spirit comes out, and the photos just “happen”.
I have always loved creating. I studied painting, airbrushing, architecture, pottery, drawing, and photography from kindergarten into high school, taking many after school art lessons. After high school, I was a general arts major at Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas for two years before attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I majored in a four year program as a photography major. During my schooling at SVA, I took up to eight classes a semester and worked for many well known New York City professional photographers before receiving my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree with an award. To support the large expense of paper and film during art school, I worked as a freelance assistant for every type of professional New York City photographer possible, gaining many aspects about the business of photography from different points of view. I became knowledgeable in shooting through the means of still life, commercial, fashion, celebrity portraiture, location, and studio environments. In total, from high school on, I learned the craft from more than fifty professionals, all who had something different to add to my knowledge. By my junior year at SVA in 1993, I had my first rise in confidence when I was invited to have an art showing called “Portraits of People in Their Bedrooms”in the SVA Gallery. Over two hundred people attended the opening night , my mom made southern biscuits and the show was written up in “New York Newsday”. The show was followed my senior year with a group show titled “The Mentor Show” where each person was given an assignment by an established New York City professional in the art world, and each paired couple got to choose their favorite image.
I started taking professional jobs on my own the same year, and had enough experience to start my own business. I focused on fashion and portrait work, and when I moved to Florida in 1995 to marry my husband Dan, I started fresh again, this time in an unknown area. I worked as a full time freelance photojournalist for the Port St. Lucie / Stuart News, getting to really nail down my photographic abilities with a wide range of assignments. You always had to get an image, and some days it really took some effort to find a picture. I learned to shoot spot news, special events, sports, feature stories, business portraits, and most of all, documentary and photo essays. Shooting five plus rolls a day really gets your talent into shape. Word of mouth and a bi-line in the newspaper slowly and surely gained me enough reputation to be self sufficient. I photographed natural portraits, photojournalistic weddings, magazine and commercial work, and made time for my own personal art. In 1999, “Natural Photo Safaris” was first inspired, where I foster clients in their photography abilities (www.NaturalPhotoSafaris.com) and in 2000, Amy Koontz Knippel Photography was incorporated.
The one event that changed my perspective of my work, and lead me to feel confidant about my work was when I Received the Visual and Media Artist Fellowship for my series on “Cancer” by the South Florida Consortium followed by a group showing of the winners at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale. I cried. It was my dream to show in a museum since the ninth grade, and here it was. Since then I have sold art to the state and to private corporations, was awarded the Millennium Cultural Recognition Award by the Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, had several shows at the Cultural Courthouse in Stuart Florida – one of which I also curated, had a 26 piece show at The Capitol in the Governor’s Gallery, and created the 2004 Martin County Calendar.
I worked on a personal series that brought me to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in a small town along the Appalachian Trail, called Pearisburg. I created a black and white 35mm documentary about my grandfather, James Alexander Witten, who was born and raised in Giles County and has never lived anywhere else. He was in his nineties when he passed and still tended his garden until his very last days, went to prayer breakfasts every Wednesday morning, and cared for my grandmother who passed after him. I intend on turning my images into a book and showing, so look for that in the future.
I am spending most of my time, currently, raising three boys with my husband and tend to their creative side. I find a few moments here and there to help others find their vision through guided meditations and photographic guidance through a business called www.Natural Photo Safaris.com and take portraits of people and families . And once in a while I am part of an art showing.
Articles about Amy Koontz Knippel
-The St. Pete Times – September 7, 2000 www.sptimes.com/News/090700/Weekend/Galleries_want_to_get.shtml
-Florida History In the Arts summer 2000
-Turtle TracksNewsletter of the Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group - Volume 26, No. 3 June/July 2002 “Photo Workshop Outing”
-The Stuart News – April 22, 2004
Martin County: Crystal Lake Elementary School art teacher Maria Miele, left, follows the lead of photographer Amy Koontz Knippel, of Palm City, during a workshop at Halpatiokee Regional Park. Knippel instructed a group of eight elementary school art teachers through a blind-folded exercise to heighten their four other senses before photography the landscape as their session. PHOTO BY DEBORAH SILVER.
-"Knippel sees camera as way of bringing outdoors into focus" By Anne Bennett-Ciaglia Special to The Jupiter Courier May 23, 2004
Photographic artist Amy Koontz Knippel had a change of heart one day after taking a canoe trip along one of Florida’s most famous rivers. “There was a time I didn’t think I could improve upon the nature photography already out there, until I saw the Loxahatchee River,” she says. It was there the artist discovered her creative niche that has evolved into recognition from the artistic community and a large body of award-winning artwork. The artist’s progression toward her ninth-grade goal to one day exhibit her own artwork in a gallery began after moving to Florida nine years ago. With a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York and fresh from a budding career as a photographer’s assistant, Knippel realized the geographical change had brought with it some formidable career obstacles. “My first job down here I made $6.50 an hour at the mall — and I was a really bad salesperson!” After a few more minimum wage positions and a little networking, the Stuart News hired her on as a freelance photo journalist where she shot from five to 10 rolls of film per day, exercising her photographic limbs. She continued to pursue her own creative efforts that eventually led to a significant nod of recognition from the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship grant in 1998-99. Her love for photographing nature, first inspired by the sight of the Loxahatchee River, significantly increased her recognition. “The importance of nature and what these natural elements represent in every being’s life is the search and preservation of all that is important,” Knippel said. To date her work has been exhibited in numerous venues, including the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, The Cultural Courthouse in Stuart, Palm Street Art Studios in West Palm Beach and the Town of Jupiter Gallery of Art. Additionally, she received the Millennium Cultural Recognition Award in 2000 by Secretary of State Katherine Harris. New business, new exhibit The coming summer will include four Knippel exhibits, the first of which will be during business hours at the new office of the accounting firm of Proctor Crook & Crowder in Jupiter beginning Monday and continuing through June 7. One of the partners of the firm, Todd J. Laycock, is Knippel’s brother-in-law. Laycock said that after 20 years and growing to 50 employees in their Stuart location, the partners saw Palm Beach County as the obvious choice for expansion. In planning the opening, a natural tie-in with Knippel presented itself. “I already had six of Amy’s pieces in my offices in Stuart,” Laycock said. “My partners and I wanted to tie in the opening with a local theme — our new local firm with a local artist instead of a more typical ribbon-cutting ceremony. ”The conclusion of the exhibit will include a Jupiter-Tequesta Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours cocktail party from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on June 7 that will include a raffle of one of Knippel’s 8-by-10 Cibachrome photographic prints. Into the woods Aside from creating artwork and her full exhibit schedule, Knippel is also at the helm ofwww.naturalphotosafaris.com, where she guides and instructs half-day, full-day and weekend outdoor excursions. All you need is a camera, some film and an interest in photographing nature, says Knippel, who has worked with groups and individuals including those interested in developing their own photographic skills, Hobe Sound Elementary students and troubled teens sponsored by the Children’s Home Society. “One day I was out with some pretty tough kids,” remembers Knippel, “and after a full day trudging around, one of the guys said, ‘This is so beautiful out here,’ and I thought I must really be getting through to them. ”Knippel said she notes an interesting quality when working with kids. “The younger they are, usually the better they are,” she says. “They haven’t had time to build up any obstacles to what they see.” In additional to serving as a board member for the Arts Council, Inc. of Stuart and Martin County and the Palm Street Arts Studio in West Palm Beach, Knippel’s goals now include another major project — the birth of her first child. “Down the road,” she says, “I want to pursue more creative ways to express my artwork, but for now, the kids come first.”
Amy Koontz Knippel