The Late Country Music Legend Kenny Rogers Was Also a Surprising Talented Photographer—See Some of His Greatest Hits Here

Rogers knew when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, and when to click the shutter.

Country music singer, actor and photographer, Kenny Rogers, poses during a 1986 Los Angeles, California, studio portrait session. Photo: George Rose/Getty Images.
Country music singer, actor, and photographer, Kenny Rogers poses during a 1986 Los Angeles studio portrait session. Photo: George Rose/Getty Images.

Kenny Rogers, who died at age 81 this weekend, was many things: a country crooner with a knack for pop crossovers, a made-for-tv actor, a gambler who knew when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, and a proprietor of a ring of chicken restaurants. But who knew that he was an accomplished photographer as well?    

A decorated musician known for pushing country into the mainstream, packing arenas and topping radio charts along the way, Rogers was also a devoted photog. His lifelong love of the medium became a bona fide practice in the early 1980s when he began taking portfolio portraits of his then-wife, model Marianne Gordon, and her friends. He went on to study with John Sexton, a landscape photographer who once worked as an assistant to Ansel Adams, and with renowned portraitist Yousuf Karsh.

“I am an impulsive obsessive,” he told Sports and Entertainment Nashville in 2013. “I impulsively get involved with something, and then I get obsessed with it. So that’s what happened with photography.”

Kenny Rogers, The Thumb.

Kenny Rogers, The Thumb.

Rogers took his large-format camera across the country for what would become the photo book Kenny Rogers’ America, a tour of US landmarks that was published in 1986. He followed that up with Your Friends and Mine, a collection of portraits of Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, and other celebrities, a year later. 

At the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2004, Rogers set up his camera backstage to take photos of the industry’s famous faces, including Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, and his lifelong friend and collaborator, Dolly Parton. The portraits were collected in his third and final photo book, This Is My Country, self-published in 2005.

Among Rogers’s artistic accolades include an Honorary Masters of Photography from the Professional Photographers of America in 2014 and the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis in 2017. 

See some of the gambler’s most famous photos below.

Kenny Rogers, <i>Lincoln Memorial</i>.

Kenny Rogers, Lincoln Memorial.

Kenny Rogers, <i>Ray Charles</i>.

Kenny Rogers, Ray Charles.

Kenny Rogers, <i>Cove Butano Park</i>.

Kenny Rogers, Cove Butano Park.

Kenny Rogers, <i>One Tree</i>.

Kenny Rogers, One Tree.

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