Four Inane Questions with photographer Roy Inman

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Courtesy photo

Just ask, and Roy Inman will be quick to tell you about his—as he jokingly puts it—“checkered photography career.” His lifelong stint as an ace photojournalist has taken him “on board America’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, to the White House, and to Fashion Week in New York,” he says. “And, of course, all over my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.”  

Inman tells us he worked as a city desk photographer after graduating from the University of Kansas and earning an MA in photojournalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. (Fun fact: he was director of photography for the Kansas City Star’s Sunday Star Magazine for a total of 17 years.)

His work has been published in plenty of well-known publications, including Time, The New York Times, and Better Homes and Gardens, but he says his favorite thing to photograph is “what’s in front of his camera at the moment.”

He’s also the resident photographer at Union Station and can often be seen with a camera in hand at the iconic tourist attraction. (Yes, you probably have his famous parade crowd shots from the Royals’ World Series or Chiefs Super Bowl hanging in your mancave.) In fact, Union Station is so near and dear to Inman’s heart he spent five years documenting the building’s pristine restoration. He even produced a book showcasing that work: Kansas City’s Union Station: Reflections After 100 Years.

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Nichols fountain. // Photo by Roy Inman

We caught up with Inman in between a hectic day of shooting to query him with our four whackadoo questions. Fortunately, he only made us carry his gear for seven of his nine shoots that day. 

The Pitch: What’s the single best photo you’ve ever taken?

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Photo by Roy Inman

Roy Inman: So, I was shooting this ginormous event at our beloved Union Station, a benefit for something or other, people in costume and all that. I saw one person dressed as King Kong and had in tow a flashy, big-bosomed blond woman resembling Fay Wray. Quite the scene it was. 

But then—then, I spied this amazing, gorgeous (in her own way), obviously self-actualizing creature with spiked hair and eyes that resembled a Star Trek character. Love at first sight for a roving photographer. She embodied all of the joy, laughter, and unbridled enthusiasm that is humankind. 

What’s your favorite, impossibly perfect, go-to, on-the-run photography snack?

That’s an easy one—Oreo Mint Thins. Not a big fan am I of the big glob of filling found in regular Oreos. In addition, the thin ones suggest to me that by eating them, I will actually get thinner! What a genius marketing idea! 

The only drawback to eating thin mint Oreos in the car is the little black crumbs that tend to collect on everything, including me. Fortunately, when I am out shooting, I typically wear black to blend into the background, the goal of every photojournalist.

You get a one-hour coffee klatch with any photographer. Who are you choosing to kibitz with?

One hour coffee with Ansel Adams would be my choice. He was well-grounded in life and photography—and an absolute master at black-and-white printing. Along with Fred Archer, Adams invented the Zone System, a complex formulation that virtually guaranteed every B&W final print to be sheer perfection. 

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Garden maze. // Photo by Roy Inman

Who do you think the world’s most impossible celeb would be to shoot? (You know, a true diva, but not in a good way.)

Sean Penn. Don’t like the cut of his jib. 

He always looks as if he just sucked on a lemon. Or maybe ate a raw potato that had stayed in the ground too long. Uck! I know, I know, he probably has millions of adoring fans, and he has probably won some award or other, but I have never seen a film or even an interview with him that I liked. 

However, being a freelancer and always trying to stay ahead of the rent, I would take on the task for enough money. I mean, a lot of money. Then, take a shower afterward.

Categories: Culture