He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Coming home to a place he’d never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door
John Denver – Rocky Mountain High
Danny Kimberlin grew up in south Louisiana,
an area heavily swayed by the French Acadian, or “Cajun,”
culture. This is a strange and wonderful land where visitors are welcome
but immigration is strictly frowned upon. His family owned land just outside
Louisiana’s capital city of Baton Rouge, exactly nine miles north
on Highland Road from the “stately oaks and broad magnolias”
of the Louisiana State University campus. It was this blend of influences
that would help shape his destiny as a physician-photographer.
Dr. K’s earliest memories are of fishing the bayous, bays, swamps,
and marshes of Louisiana’s rich coastal environment with his dad.
These were places that required a topo map to navigate and even today,
despite over 50,000 offshore oil leases, rival Florida’s Everglades
in wetlands biodiversity. Every weekend was spent with fishing rod in
hand, immersed in the sights and sounds of this backwater land of enchantment.
Eventually the family plot, known as “the country” back then,
evolved into a recreational ranch which the entire clan came to live upon.
Nevertheless, there were more horses than people on this spread, and seven
barns and four ponds at last count. And so it came to pass that the rod
and reel were succeeded by a new and consuming passion, for horses and
all that that implies. From the age of eight, until he entered L.S.U.
at 18, Dr. K lived and breathed the world of Highland Road Farms, surrounded
by similarly passionate people, family and friends alike. This was a different
world than the swamp, but it was nature, nevertheless. Huge live oak and
pecan trees shaded barnyard animals and a menagerie of wild critters that
had plenty of room to roam in those days. Trail rides were punctuated
with horse shows and rodeos, blended into the perpetual summer of south
Louisiana, Disney’s “Song Of the South” come to life.
And that’s how it was until 1966, perhaps the pinnacle year of a
social revolution referred to today as The Sixties. For Dr. K
high school graduation was followed by the daily trek down Highland Road
to L.S.U. It was the end of innocence as horses gave way to pre-med and
other serious things. The world of hands-on nature was exchanged for the
very cerebral life of a college student and the emerging environmental
movement. The latter was part of that great revolution that included hippies,
anti-war (Vietnam), civil rights for blacks and women, and, of course,
sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Kennedy had been killed, Peter, Paul, and
Mary sang Dylan's Blowin’ In the Wind to number one, and
we were hell-bent to land a man on the moon, as if the fires of social
change needed more fuel. Out of all this energy grew a new awareness,
that the planet was increasingly threatened by the growing dominance of
a single species, Homo sapiens.
By 1967 the only thing left in this rite of passage story was to find
an outlet of expression for all this pent up passion and concern. The
revelation came during an odyssey to Tennessee. It was the summer of his
nineteenth year and from that time forward things would not be the same.
On a day in June, between his freshman and sophomore years at L.S.U.,
Danny Kimberlin left the safety of his cocoon in Baton Rouge and drove
due north for the very first time. He had no itinerary but to go places
he had never been. Though he didn’t know it at the time it was to
be a transformative journey from which there would be no return, at least
in a spiritual sense. He had a new car and camera and a hankering to see
new worlds, preferably of topographical diversity. He would not be disappointed.
By the end of day one the flatlands of his youth had faded in the rear
view mirror and the earth was beginning to buckle a bit.
On day two he meandered for hours beside a chuckling stream, somewhere
between Lookout Mountain and the Great Smokies, ensconced in the blue
hills and green dales of this hallelujah wonderland. The roads were gentle,
wavy, of the two-lane type, the sort of tranquil byways one would wish
for to be lifted from Rock City to the Pearly Gates. The conversion was
The succeeding days were welded seamlessly, as one peak experience was
followed by another, and then another. He worshipped in cathedral forests,
waded clear mountain streams, and felt of cool clammy rock – all
for the very first time. He hiked the trails, picked berries in balds,
bagged a few peaks, and slept with stars and bears. And he snapped the
shutter of a camera for the first time, and then again and again. At the
end of two weeks the transformation was complete. The cowboy's heart would
be forever on the road, climbing the hills, and telling his story with
a camera. Twenty three years later, in 1990, Dr. K moved to Tennesseee
where he lives today and practices medicine and the art of adventure photography.
His travels have taken him to all 50 states, all seven continents, and