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27 September 2018 Posted by 

The business of being KEN DUNCAN

KEN Duncan is the Central Coast’s most recognized international personality and businessman with his famous panorama photos featured in boardrooms, CEO’s offices and prestige homes worldwide.

It has been a meteoric rise to fame for Erina Heights based Ken who took the chance of a lifetime 30 years ago and has never looked back. It all started with a now primitive Widelux panorama film camera which had a sweeping lens that took 2.5 frames of normal 35mm film.
The Widelux lay slumbering in Japan for years until Ken came across one in his job and realized the unique 140 degree panoramas were ideal for capturing Outback Australia.
He went off and portrayed Australia in a unique way that immediately captured the imagination of Australians and led to his bestselling book “The Last Frontier: Australia Wide”.
He then pioneered limited edition large format prints from a gallery beside his home in Matcham before opening the highly successful Ken Duncan Gallery and Sanctuary Café at Erina Heights.
His books are now featured in the White House, he goes photographing with Ray Martin in the Kimberley and sits on hilltops in Central Australia with his schoolmate Mel Gibson.
When I approached him for this interview he was busy photographing somewhere in Africa.
Ken is the perfect combination of talent, vision, faith and drive that allows a select few people to climb the mountain to worldwide success.
His fascinating history can be found in numerous Google files, but for this interview I wanted to ask  for the inside story on how it all started, how he gained success in America and what his plans are for the future.
DAL: You always had drive and determination. Where did that come from?
KEN: I was told when I left school by one of my teachers that I would be one of the least likely people to ever succeed and my answer to him was: “Well sir, as long as I don’t become a teacher I will consider successful at whatever I do”.
I know that not all teachers may need to consider another profession, as it was an Industrial Arts teacher Bob Brown (who now lives also in the Central Coast area) who helped inspire my love of photography at the age of 16 at school.
On leaving school I had been told the meaning of success was to have a great job that paid a lot of money, to own a great car, own a house then get married and have 2.5 children. So off I went to follow the great Australian dream.
I joined a photographic company and advanced rapidly through the company to where I was one of their leading sales and technical people. I was making a lot of money.  So I achieved most of the so-called success formula in under 10 years, except for the wife and the 2.5 children.
The rest of the dream was not really bringing me happiness, so I didn’t want to be tied down in a relationship or with children. I realised there had to be more to life than just making money commercially out of photography. Then, the company at the time I was working with imported this strange new camera called Widelux. It shot panoramic images of 140 degrees.
DAL: When you first laid eyes on that Widelux in 1981, it must have been a light bulb moment for you. Can you tell us about it and what made you give up your job and head off around Australia.
KEN: I took this camera to Bali to test and on returning and seeing the images, I realised that this panoramic format was what I had always been looking for in a way of telling a story.
I decided that it was time to leave the comfort of the great Australian dream and go off adventuring and find a way to make a living from photographing. I had been in the thick of the Australian photographic industry for about 10 Years and had realised many talented photographers had to do commercial work to pay the bills as there was no great respect for photography as an art form in those days. Even people like Max Dupain or David Moore would have to do commercial work to pay the bills.
I believed there had to be another way where people could make a living out of showing pictures that they wanted to take.
So I had found this new camera with an amazing new way of seeing the world and I decided it was time to head off and photograph Australia.
For me there had to be something more to life than the so-called Aussie Dream: there had to be a greater meaning to life.
DAL: Did you ever dream you would have the amazing success you have had?
KEN: Really I never really think of success as I still so much that I am trying to achieve. I guess if you keep at things long enough people will start to see your work.
I just love life and want to bring the beauty of God’s creation to as many as possible, whether in their homes or in their work places. I believe the natural world helps make us realise there is a bigger picture to life than just making money.
DAL: You pioneered Limited Edition Panoramas in Australia. How did you come up with the idea and how has the industry changed in recent times?
KEN: In the early 80’s the elitist art world claimed that really photography was not an art form it was just a craft. This really annoyed me so I determined that I was going off to get a collection of images that people would respond to and want to buy. I did that and then headed to New York which was the Mecca of photography at that time and learned how they marketed photography in the USA. I had a very successful response to my work in New York but I decided to return to Australia and improve upon what I had learned in the USA. I believed that photography is an art form and I really wanted to help create a market where photographers could make a living by shooting what they want.
DAL. You now feature a lot of exciting overseas locations. Do you have a favourite place you have photographed?
KEN: I love shooting all over the world but my favourite place is Australia
DAL: You broke through in America through a lot of hard work. Can you tell us about that experience?
KEN: Yes I did a book called "America Wide in God we Trust” which featured classic panoramic landscapes of all 50 states of America. The reason I did it was to remind all Americans of the God in whom they say they trust and have on their money. John Howard our Prime Minister found out that I that I had just finished the book and had just received finished copies. He asked if I could sign a copy for George Bush the president of the USA?. He also said I could write why I had done the project.
I said in that letter that I had done it to remind American how blessed they were as a Nation and it was their trust only in God that would keep them strong in the troubled times ahead. That book was given to President  Bush by Mr Howard the day before 9/11. Mr Bush wrote me a letter thanking me for the book on behalf of himself and his wife. He said at a time when he had to make difficult decisions for his nation, it helped him as he look upon the beauty of God’s creation in his nation.
DAL: There are Ken Duncan limited edition prints in major corporate offices worldwide. It must be very rewarding to know you so loved by leading businesspeople.
KEN: Yes it is great to have works all over the world and I just hope wherever my work is that it helps bring peace to all who view it.
DAL: I have always been impressed by your great faith and the role it played in your creative work and your life. Can you tell us about it?
KEN: Our vision statement as a company and personally is to show the beauty of God’s creation. For me I am an average photographer with a great God. My hope is that people may see the divinity of God through his creation. To be truly creative I believe it helps to know the creator.
DAL:  You have been able to evolve your business to become involved in new ventures such as photography travel workshops which have proved a huge success. Can you tell us about these adventures and why people are so keen to be involved?
KEN: I love doing some workshops as I love helping others to follow their dreams as photographers. I can only do so many each year as I am busy with so many of my own projects. There are so many who do photo workshops but do not have the experience of how to actually make a living out of the photos taken. This is why I feel a responsibility to put back into an industry that I love and do some workshops.
DAL:. Your business and the Ken Duncan Gallery and Café at Erina Heights are one of the great success stories of Central Coast tourism. What advice would you have for younger business people looking to develop a tourist project?
KEN: Work hard and don’t let go of your dreams.  Do your best and for me it is best to let God into your dreams. We were never designed just to do things on our own. With God on your side nothing is impossible. Having a faith in God helps you through all the trials and tribulations you may face. If at any time I am feeling a bit overwhelmed it is because I have taken over the helm and if I want my peace to return it is time to hand the helm back to God. 
DAL:. How can we get more tourists to the Central Coast?
KEN: Get rid of the new tourist group who are doing a shocking job of promoting the Central Coast. Most of the money that is given by the councils and the governing bodies is wasted on wages and expenses  that are not yielding results. We should just show people how great this place is and they will come.
DAL: And finally, what have you got planned for the future? What is the next exciting chapter in your life?
KEN: To work more with the indigenous people in remote Australian communities, giving them access to the technology and training that we take for granted.
We are just about to open our first remote technology Arts Centre at Ikuntji Community. This will train people up for meaningful job opportunities in remote communities in photography, cinematography, music, graphic design, Internet design and marketing and tourism. To learn more about this check out the foundation we have set up at www.walkawhile.org.au We will be doing more travelling photographic exhibitions throughout Australia and overseas. I will be also continuing with my photography, traveling to exciting overseas locations. My main photographic passion is to spend more time photographing in remote Australian locations. Also after the success of the documentary we did called "Chasing the Light” we will do more documentaries. It is good to have dreams, but live one day at a time as none of us knows how much time we have to make a difference.


Michael Walls
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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Central Coast Business Access (CCBA) covers the business and community issues of the NSW Central Coast region. CCBA is a prime media source for connecting with the pulse of the region and tapping into it's vast opportunities.