Ken Botto (1937-2008)
This chromogenic print of what appears to be an ocean liner on the verge of sinking with the waiting jaws of a shark beneath is an example of Botto’s use of vintage toys and clever
lighting—in a tableaux that he photographed to create a story.
From 1971 Ken Botto lived in Bolinas and was a well-known member of the community, both eccentric and gifted. Described as a directorial photographer, he piled his property with collections of old toys, found objects, and oddities that he used to assemble imaginative miniature tableaus. He photographed the set ups using natural light and mirrors for illumination, with his 1970s Nikkormat camera, and without manipulation in the darkroom. Botto invites us to step into theater, other worlds and dimensions of his own creation; some whimsical, some with social and life commentary, and some just magical. In 1978 Chronicle Books published Past Joys, a book of Botto’s images of vintage and historic toys and objects in unique settings.
In 2010, Bolinas Museum presented a main gallery exhibition Ken Botto: Life Work, curated by former Bolinas Museum director Linda Samuels, who was a close friend of Botto’s and Trustee/Director of the Kenneth J. Botto Photography Trust. Coinciding in the photography gallery, was the exhibition Ken Botto House & Garden By 7 Photographers.
Botto earned a BA from California College of Arts & Crafts and an MA from Claremont Graduate University. He taught drawing and painting at West Illinois University before moving back to California. His work has been widely exhibited and is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.