Coffman has been taking photos, making smiles for decades

August 16, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

JUNCTION CITY - Donnie Coffman carried his Mamiya camera and tripod from the pond to a Maple tree to a powder blue bench behind his studio here.

The sky was overcast, perfect light for portraits.

Thursday his subject was Lafayette High School senior Krissy Hearin. The Lexington student is on the soccer team and will graduate in May.

Coffman has seen three decades of seniors come through his backyard. He has captured their last year of high school on medium format film.

These are the pictures that will make the teenagers cringe when their kids drag them out of the closet in 20 years. The pictures that will fill their parents with tears, remembering their children's last moments of childhood. Images that will conjure thoughts of the end of carefree days.


Coffman does it all with a "give me that pretty little smile, sweetheart" and a "tilt your head, honey." It's hard not to meet Coffman's perpetual jolly face with a smile. He seems always to be laughing or about to break into a chuckle.

Coffman owns a photography studio here, and represents the city on the Boyle County Fiscal Court.

As school starts back up, Coffman has spent most of his days shooting seniors.

He creates his own backdrops for the pictures. Once on vacation he found a thick rope on Myrtle Beach. He brought it back to Junction City and built a mini deck behind his studio. Now he shoots senior photos on it.

He found his favorite Maple Tree in a ditch between Junction City and Parksville. He took it out with an all-terrain-vehicle. Coffman said every tree he bought from a nursery died, but every one he got out of a ditch grows just fine. He likes trees with forks in the trunk, so girls can pose leaning through the branches.

There is a fountain with running water. He had Hearin put her feet in the water fall for a picture. There are no fish in the water. Laughing, Coffman said he tried to put bass in the tiny pool, but that they got sucked into the pump and then there were fish guts in the water.

When he isn't battling fish guts or shooting seniors, Coffman shoots weddings, babies, families and portraits.

He is a race track announcer, too

On the weekends, he is a race track announcer at the Richmond Raceway. His photography career started with shooting stock cars, and he still does, forever capturing drivers with their teams and trophies.

More than 30 years later, does he still enjoy working behind a camera?

"Oh yeah, it's fun," he said, his face spreading into a grin as if to show that he means it. "It's not the same thing all the time; not the same like factory work."

Coffman has got his own spin on senior portraits. He shoots students with their cars, guitars and sports balls on fire.

He got the idea from a Shaq commercial. Ever since, he has a slew of pictures of grinning senior athletes holding footballs, basketballs and soccer balls on fire.

"People like it," he said.

People seem to like Coffman, too. He has been booked by parents from all over the area, and has had three or four sittings a day now that the time is ripe for graduation preparations.

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