Marilyn Friesen
A conversation with KANSAS! photographers about their work and the iconic images of our home state

Wichita native and Wichita State graduate Marilyn Friesen spent a career in the healthcare industry before retiring in 2016 and devoting much of her free time to photography. “I started to pay attention to the sun and moon cycles, to weather, flowers, birds and local wildlife,” she says. “I targeted them as subjects for learning the technical aspects of photography.” She uses her home in Inman as her base for frequent Kansas photography-themed day trips with her husband, Ben, and is a frequent contributor to the KANSAS! gallery of seasonal photographs. One of her images was also selected to appear in the 2020 KANSAS! calendar.

What was your first camera?

My first “real” camera was a Canon AE-1 in 1984. That camera gave me the opportunity to have more control over taking a picture, but it was intimidating. I used the program mode or presets for the most part and only used the camera occasionally.

What have you learned from being a photographer that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise?

Patience—with conditions and myself. Awareness of nature. Technical abilities with the camera and editing software. Kansas history and geography. Bird and flower identification. Bird migrations. Artistic approaches. Making new friends.

What is the most common photography advice you share with amateur photographers?

First and foremost, do not give up. Learn the basics of photography. Understand how a picture is impacted by your shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Familiarize yourself with your camera. Photograph what you like. Know your subject so that you can anticipate its actions. Photography is a journey with achievable challenges at each step. The next challenge is always there, and you are never finished.

Who is a Kansan you have never photographed, but would like to?

Gordon Parks. I met him and got his autograph in the late ’90s when he had an exhibition on the Wichita State University campus. I admired his work and talent.

What was your best chance photo?

My best chance photo was a snowy owl in McPherson County, December 2017. Someone had posted on social media about having seen this owl, so I canceled my plans for that evening and set out to see if I might find and photograph it. Late that afternoon, I spotted the owl on a hay bale. I was so excited it was hard to hold the camera still.

What is your favorite photo shoot from throughout your career?

Bartlett Arboretum last fall. I expected fall color, but upon arrival the colors were explosive. It was beautiful beyond belief and delightfully overwhelming.