The world reposes in a shroud of dark slumber at 4 AM. In Lower Town Paducah, a scant number of faint sounds can occasionally be heard amidst the blanket of silence. The smell of coffee emanates from Kenneth Rudolph's kitchen as he finishes off his first cup.
He's been up for nearly half an hour; and soon, he'll be out his door, camera in hand, ready to capture the waking moments in Paducah.
This is a typical day for Kenneth who spends most of his time capturing the world around him through the art and science of photography. It is a passion he's held for a very long time.
"I've been taking photos since I was seven," he says. "Dad gave me a Brownie camera, and I took a picture of downtown Colorado Springs where we lived. When I got that print back, I though to myself, 'Wow! This is amazing!'"
Kenneth's ties to photography go back generations to his grandfather who lived in Paducah. "Herbert Rudolph was his name, and he had the first photography shop in town. He took a lot of photos of the '37 flood."
Like his grandfather, Kenneth knew film as the only medium to work with. "I've always had my own dark room and loved working with the film process from beginning to end. When digital came along, I swore I wouldn't have anything to do with it. But I went back to school at the Paducah School of Art to get my art degree, taking some classes there really got me into digital photography."
By 5 AM, Kenneth is exploring the streets among Lower Town and downtown Paducah, capturing life as it unfolds. He takes his photos anywhere he can reach via his bicycle. He hasn't owned a vehicle in 15 years.
"I've lived down here for ten years. I visited Paducah off and on over the years to see relatives. I wanted to come here to live and be around people who are artistic," he comments.
Kenneth shares his photos with friends in the neighborhood, and many of them have been re-interpreted as paintings, giving dual life to what started as merely a slice of time in Kenneth's life.
"I like capturing the weather," he says. Many of his photos in Lower Town and downtown freeze dramatic moments. There is the ethereal early morning fog, blazing sunrises over the Ohio River, and menacing storm clouds rolling into the city.
The past decade has been a new phase in his lifetime of work. Before coming to Paducah, Kenneth spent a great deal of time traveling—taking photos of fossils and caves around the world. But now his sights are set on life in the river city.
"Photography today is really amazing. With digital, everyone can take a photo anywhere at any time. So much goes on that people can share, and everyone gets to see! I like seeing life through other people's eyes."
Tomorrow morning, come 4 AM and with camera in hand, Kenneth will be ready to step out and photograph the world around him. "I am constantly taking photos," he laughs. "I have a camera with me at all times…well, maybe everywhere but the shower!"