Photographer Profile Series
John Heino has a passion for photography, travel, and music
Area photographer John Heino cites famed American photographer, Ansel Adams, as one of his icons. Adams once said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” Heino echoes that philosophy with every shot by continuing to “make” his photographs uniquely his own.
Although John Heino was born and raised in Duluth, he said that after high school he had wanderlust and wanted to get out and see more of the country. After several years, he came back to Duluth to go to school, get married, and raise a family, and realized, like Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz,” that “There’s no place like home.”
Heino began, as he called it “an old-school photographer,” when he was an art major at UMD in the 80s. He learned his craft, first developing his own film “old-style” in the dark room, and later transitioning to digital, despite some of his original skepticism.
Recalling one of his earliest mentors, he said, “I had an amazing photography professor at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, a guy named Joe Boudreau. He had come here to teach from New York City where he was a fairly big-time photographer. He taught me so much that helped me to shape my perspectives on photography.”
While Heino started out as an art major, he explained, “I changed to a communication degree and later a master’s in management.” While he went into business for over three decades, he still was pursuing his passions for music and photography.
Taking piano lessons as a child and joining bands starting when he was fifteen, John later began playing keyboard with a group called the “Centerville All Stars.” He has been playing with this classic rock group for 43 years, performing everywhere from local bars to outdoor venues, including at Sturgis.
He noted, “I’ve always felt like the guys in “The Centerville All Stars” were born to play together, and all these years later, we still have fun. We call it being on the “I-35 Tour,” playing in either in Duluth or Minneapolis or many places in between.”
Even with his career and his music gigs, John kept photography as an important part of his life. Learning more in the digital realm, investing in better equipment, and taking advantage of all that the region has to offer for fabulous landscapes, he loves to spend his time in retirement going on photo expeditions.
John says he has so many interests that carry over to his photography. He does, however, especially love photographing landscapes and wildlife, particularly birds.
For the sheer beauty of landscapes with the rock formations, and of course, the Lake, the Northland is his favorite photography locale. “I love it all, waterfalls, sunsets, dramatic clouds, blue skies, and ice formations,” he said.
Heino has two more recent favorite photos, one of Cross River close to Schroeder, and a photo of a Lewis Woodpecker that he says he is especially proud of, noting, “The woodpecker was hard to find. I spotted a nest on a trip out West and was able to capture one of the birds in mid-flight.”
Travel, tied to his photography, is another of John’s passions. He says Layne Kennedy is one of his most inspiring mentors who taught him about combining his love of photography and travel. ”He is such a talented photographer who has worked for ‘National Geographic.’ He does great photo tours; one of my favorites was a trip with him to Havana, Cuba.”
Heino also notes a few other photographers, Dennis O’Hara and John Alexander Kay, as being inspirational to him. “Both of them are great human beings, as well as being wonderful photographers,” he said.
While John does sell some of his work from his Facebook page, he does work with Smugmug to sell much of his work as well. Over the years, Heino has had some big commercial clients for his photography including the University of Minnesota Clinics and Surgery Center, Holiday Inn, Alerus Bank, Memorial Hospital (Cloquet), among others.
John has also been excited to contribute photos to Destination Duluth. “I’ve been contributing from the very beginning—no idea how many photos. It's been a mutually beneficial relationship. I pick up followers from the exposure, and I appreciate the value of Destination Duluth as a citizen who wants to see our economy grow.”
Soon John will have a new photo subject in his life when he and his wife welcome their first grandchild. “I am so excited to become a grandpa,” he said.
Like famed American photographer Imogen Cunningham, who once said, “Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I am going to take tomorrow,’” John Heino is always looking ahead to that next shot, that next inspiration for another stunning photograph that only his trained eye can see in exactly that same way.