Friendship with an Artist: Kaupo

Usually the most illuminating friendships–the ones that inspire us and change us–are the ones that happen by accident. I first met award-winning Estonian photographer Kaupo Kikkas through his famous portraits of the composer Arvo Pärt. I was drawn to the inner radiance, peace, and loneliness of his language–the same qualities that draw me, for example, to the works of Franz Schubert and the paintings of Edward Hopper. Click any image in this post for full size.

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The Idea

When my publicist Jonathan Eifert suggested I arrange to have more photos taken of me, he first suggested Kaupo. It was a dream that I thought would be out of reach–the cost, and the ocean between Cleveland and Estonia. As it turns out, this photographer is a highly sensitive, perspicacious artist who connects first and foremost with people and subjects. I wrote to him, and thanked him for the inspiration I got from his work. His prices turned out to be a fraction of that of his colleagues, and there wasn’t anybody else I wanted.

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Estonian composer Arvo Pärt–the inner luminosity and strength of his music is reflected in his portraits.

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First Meeting

I flew to Los Angeles in February 2013, where Kaupo was to have some days of vacation with friends in nature. I stayed in Santa Monica not far from the beach. I got a knock on the door and there was Kaupo–much younger than I expected for an artist of such prolific credentials. His personality immediately revealed itself to be complex: dynamic, European, self-driven, charming, and the sort of mercurial, mysterious inner life that manifests in an unusual mix of extroversion and introversion. Within five minutes, he already took two portraits of me, in the garden of the house where I was staying:

Two impromptu portraits upon first meeting--in the garden of the house where I stayed in Santa Monica

Two impromptu portraits upon first meeting–in the garden of the house where I stayed in Santa Monica

In the months leading up to the photo shoot, Kaupo and I discussed many subjects–books, film, music. We even spoke about specific photos of his that attracted me. He researched my life and work and got some sense of my personality–when he scoped out locations across greater Los Angeles, he looked for sites to reflect this. We came up with keywords to portray, and I will leave it to reader’s imaginations to guess what they were in this first photo shoot:

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Second Meeting: Cleveland

I quickly came up with the dream of having a second photo session with Kaupo in my beloved home city of Cleveland, Ohio–there is such expressive strength in the natural and urban settings of this place. As it turns out, on my birthday in 2014, we were able to make this happen. The temperatures were extremely cold–12 degrees Fahrenheit. But Kaupo was once again able to turn out his incredible work:

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