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Meet Jan Kaulins

Jan has been specializing in photographing around Detroit for over 20 years, long before the current new trend of photographing around the metro Detroit area became popular. He has one of the largest ranges of contemporary and historical fine-art Detroit photos available anywhere. Jan hand-colors his black and white film photos and all of his digital photos are made from 9 separate bracketed exposures. (Pictured above are Jan & his son Aidan)

What is your favorite piece of work that you have created?

A fairly recent photographic series is of iconic vintage Detroit products that bring nostalgic feelings of growing up and living in Detroit such as this ‘Faygo bottle caps’ image. The other portion of my business is restoring rare historic vintage Detroit photos from my collection, such as this 1920’s photo of Old Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit.

What are your goals for the future, both artistically and in life?

Professionally, my goal is to keep adding to my contemporary and historical Detroit photography series that I began working on over 20 years ago. Personally, a life goal for the upcoming season is to have another winning 5th Grade basketball team that I’m the head coach of in which my 11-year-old son Aidan plays.

What are you currently working on?

With the very busy outdoor art fair season having recently ended I’m working on catching up on a lot of reading I’ve been putting off, which includes several early aviation novels by Antoine St. Exupery, Arsenal of Democracy (how Detroit industry won WWII) by Baime, Diego Rivera bio by B. Wolfe Water for Elephants by Gruen, One Summer---America 1927 by B. Bryson, Keith Richards bio titled ‘Life’ etc. A few of these I’ve already begun and can’t wait to finish. The list is long. 

Do you have any other interesting hobbies or maybe a fun story about an experience involving your artwork?

Many years ago before I became a photographer I was making jewelry, furniture and smoking pipes out of shed deer and elk antlers that we gathered in the elk wintering grounds in the Rocky Mountains of Montana and Wyoming. While in Jackson Hole, Wyoming an old partner of mine and I were apprehended trying to swipe antlers from the downtown elk antler arches and were chased out of town by the cowboy Sheriff. On the same trip, I almost got killed by an angry wild buffalo who chased me until I was luckily able to hop over a fence and escape.

What is your strongest memory of your childhood?

Playing Little League baseball and going to ballgames with my dad at the Old Tiger Stadium.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

After getting out of Graduate School at The University of Michigan, I was a Social Worker for the Criminally Insane wards at the large Ypsilanti State Hospital and I was a Crisis Intervention Counsellor in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. After a couple of years in that field, I decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do when I grew up so quit my job and headed to the Rocky Mountains out West to search for antlers to begin my arts and crafts career and began selling them at music festivals and small art fairs. I have since done well over 500 art fairs all over the USA and have traveled through 48 states (having somehow missed Arizona and Alaska). Between my first artistic incarnation of antler carving, I have been a jeweler, a woodworker, a bamboo flute and Kalimba (thumb piano) maker, and for over the last 20 years a photographer.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I was accepted for my Undergraduate studies at EMU with a full ride Scholarship in Drama (having had the leads in all plays through high-school and President of the Drama Club.) I soon realized that The Silver Screen was not in the cards for me and got interested in Abnormal Psychology, Cultural Anthropology, and Literature.

Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others?

Go for it---whatever you want to make or do or create, no matter what others may say or think. Believe in yourself---anything is possible.

Where do you gather most of your inspiration for your artwork?

Just simply be an observation of my surroundings and being aware of such things as light, clouds, unique angles, the interplay of color and patterns etc.

What is your favorite...

Color: Red Pet and/or animal: Buffalo Season: Spring---the time of rebirth. Board game: Jeopardy and Trivial Pursuit Holiday: Halloween Best cup of coffee: Cafe Cubano Ice cream: Never met one I didn’t like

What superpower would you have?


What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

Never give a sucker an even break---just kidding! Don’t spit into the wind.

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

My family.

You can find lots of Jan's amazing Detroit photography at Yellow Door and online.