Shane Linden’s wonderful photos have been featured on several Camp covers, including the September 2014 cover of the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association’s Show-Me State rodeo. As anyone knows if they’ve tried to take pictures of fast-moving horses and riders, it requires expertise.
Linden has been photographing MGRA’s annual rodeo since 2012, but he won’t be able to attend this year because of a schedule conflict with the Sept. 2-4 event. Instead, he’ll be attending a 25th anniversary commemoration of Desert Storm. His National Guard unit, the 170th Heavy Equipment Maintenance Company, returned to the United States in June 1991, and it will have a reunion that weekend.
Linden said he was the communications sergeant for his National Guard unit.
“I’ve been in Kansas City since the fall of 1997,” he said. “I came here after grad school, so I was in the National Guard from ’89 to about ’95, ’96.”
Linden, who is openly gay and in his 40s, said it wasn’t a problem for him back when he served in the military.
“I wasn’t out until 2000-2001,” he said. “I don’t mind talking about the military stuff, but I came out kind of late.”
A native of Western Kansas, he said his educational background didn’t necessarily prepare him for his day job or his photography avocation.
“I majored in philosophy. It taught me a lot about writing and thinking,” he said with a laugh.
Linden, who works in a professional field in Kansas City, said, “My grandparents were farmers, so I’m essentially first, second generation off the farm.”
He enlisted in the military before Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell began.
“It was back in the days when you were specially questioned on your enlistment paperwork whether you engage in any homosexual activity,” he said. “Now I wasn’t out yet, and I was still trying to figure things out. I had to wrestle with that. How do I answer truthfully to that if I wanted to be in the military?”
Although he’s not involved with the military anymore, Linden said, “It was an important part of my life. It kind of brings me to where I am now.”
Linden’s photography portfolio includes a wide variety of subjects, from same-sex weddings to specific groups in the LGBT community, including the Kansas City Bear Mafia, the gay rugby teams, and Kansas City of Fountains Sisters. His company is P.S. Linden Photography.
Linden’s photographs of the rodeo participants and the animals are often intense and powerful.
“It’s clear when you pay attention that these folks are working so hard to be the best,” Linden said. “If I can somehow convey some piece of that, I’ve done my job well.”
I asked Linden whether he is doing some of the creative work formerly photographed by Ann K. Brown before her untimely death in 2014 at age 51.
“Some people have mentioned that to me,” he said. “Sometimes it’s difficult for me to respond to that, because she had such a unique and creative vision. I can’t fill that. There’s a need there that I am happy to enjoy helping with.”
Linden said he is really drawn to photographs of people who are pushing boundaries, “whether it is by doing activities different from what you consider the gay norm or even pushing gender boundaries. I think that because there is a tension there … interesting and exciting things happen.”
Linden said that when shooting photos of same-sex weddings, he feels they are still about people pushing boundaries.
“I photographed the wedding of one of the very first gay couples in Kansas City who were legally married,” he said. “I have another wedding coming up this fall with a lesbian wedding. I’ve done everything from a destination wedding to a small house wedding. These were people who were literally making history by doing what they were doing. In any wedding, you are documenting historic events for the people, but this is also documenting historic events for the city and the state and the country. It has all these layers on it.”
Linden puts his own stamp on his photos.
“Some people are fantastic at doing everything spontaneously. I always like to come in with a game plan and the direction I’m aiming for. As we go through the shoot, that may shift and change. But I always like to have a basic vision I’m starting from.
“One of the things I think sets me apart from some is that I’ve definitely got more involved in doing artificial lighting. The reason I’m drawn to that in the studio context, compared to location shoots, is that it lets you take an image to the next level. And sometimes we push it to a theatrical, almost cinematic level.”