Take a drive down Gabbler Avenue in Rockford Township, just a block, or so, north of where it meets Highway 55, and you’ll run across a quaint little sign directing the way to Lunderby Photography.
A quick turn to the right, and you’ll come up a driveway that noses up to a charming little building that serves as a studio and office for a couple that have been snapping pictures and recording memorable moments for a vast number of folks who reside in the Rockford area, as well as many who do not.
For decades, Kathy and Ken Lunderby have built up their photography business by capturing the essence of their clients for posterity, giving them something beautiful and lasting to cherish for years to come. They started small, a husband and wife team, who made their way into the business by working weddings and events that led to referrals and an ever growing clientele. Ken, who was working at Miller Publishing full time in the 1980s, got his first commission shooting pictures of a dog of an acquaintance. At that time, his credentials were a good eye and a good camera.
Kathy was at home as they started their family, and was supportive, assisting in anyway she could while refining her abilities as well. As hard as they were working, breaking into the business stirred a strong, and shared, desire to make photography more that a part time side gig, helping then find their way to where they are now: an enthusiastic, successful couple working side-by-side on something they consider a passion.
Kathy remembers the day they decided to go fulltime into photography, and recites the date: June 14, 1985. The company Ken was working for was initiating layoffs, and the timing, she says, was like a miracle. “Ken was burning the candle at both ends, and this was what we both really wanted, so it was perfect timing.”
Ken recalls it clearly, as well.
“I had my paycheck, and I got in my truck and I was holding it and I thought, ‘Just give me a sign.’ ”
When he turned the key in the ignition, the radio came on and “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin was playing, about a man who works really hard and decides to spend more time with his family. “If that wasn’t a sign,” says Ken, “I don’t know what would be.”
To say the rest is history would be short-changing the years to follow. Ken and Kathy both honed their skills through workshops and by joining professional organizations like the Professional Photographers Association and the Minnesota Professional Photographers Association. They found great fellowship and became accomplished earning master of photography and craftsman degrees. Ken has served as a member and president on photography association boards and both have spent endless hours keeping up on the latest developments and trends in the world of photography, never losing sight of why they jumped in with both feet and continue to receive glowing reviews and gratitude from their clients, old and new.
Ken and Kathy both get a chuckle at proof that they’ve been in the business as long as they have. This time of year is hopping at Lunderby’s as 2014 high school grads show up around the clock to get their senior pictures taken. “We’re now taking pictures of the kids of students we shot as seniors,” Ken said.
So, the Lunderby’s are ingrained in the community. Their name is well known and their work is displayed in yearbooks, on living room walls and is featured, annually, in the South Crow River news as the Rockford High School Class is honored. Aside from their clientele, they also volunteer their expertise in capturing memorable events throughout the city, most recently the shot several engaging scenes during the 1,000 Hearts Volunteer Service Day. They also donate gift certificates for charity fund raising events. The couple has previously been honored by the Rockford Lions who nominated them for the prestigious Helen Keller Award.
And, the volunteering doesn’t just include photography. Kathy has been involved for years at Our Fathers Lutheran Church in Rockford, and was instrumental in starting up the annual community Thanksgiving Dinner that welcomes anyone looking for a communal holiday dining experience.
The committee that chooses the Rockford River Days Grand Marshals had no problem bestowing this title upon the Lunderbys a few weeks ago. The Lunderbys, well, they said they were blindsided but very honored and will proudly lead the parade Aug. 11.
For a couple of hours on an August afternoon, the couple so comfortable behind cameras will be facing a barrage of them. It’s an ironic little twist in a tale has had a few, but remains interesting and vital. Three decades ago a young couple came out to the area with friends who were interesting in buying land outside the city. The couple passed, but the Lunderby’s saw potential and the beginning of something incredible. They stayed, worked and pitched in when, and where, they could while raising two sons. Their daughter-in-law now works with them and their studio walls include several stunning portraits of their first grandchild, Aida.
The Lunderbys found a home and a life they love on the outskirts of Rockford.
Rockford has found a deserving couple of Grand Marshals to represent the city during River Days. It looks a pretty good match all the way around.
Come and show support for Kathy and Ken at the Grand Parade Sunday, Aug. 11, at noon in Rockford. And, if you’re inclined, bring your camera. The regular photographers will be tied up that day.
(Contact Linda Herkenhoff at [email protected])