Steve Kiefer, with his burly physique and boisterous tone, could easily pass as a professional wrestler. Despite his stature, his amiable persona and artistic talents have made him a prominent photographer in Southern California.
His portfolio of Hollywood legends has led envious colleagues to coin him “The Photographer to the Stars.” His work has so impressed Dave Prowse that the villain of the Star Wars trilogy displays Kiefer’s photos in his world-famous gymnasium in the UK.
It all began when a teenager with average dreams jumped on a opportunity to tour London. “During my visit,” recalls Kiefer, “I attended the premier of the Beatles’ first film—A Hard Day’s Night. In the film, Ringo Starr goes out shooting a camera, focusing the lens and so forth, and I kept thinking, ‘Hey, that looks interesting… that’s something I’d like to do.’ So when I came back to the states, I went out and bought a camera.”
Along the journey, Kiefer and his trusty Nikon 6006 have buddied up with Rory Calhoun, James Drury, Edward Faulkner, Robert Fuller, Leo Gordon, Burt Kennedy, William T. Orr, Gregory Walcott, Adam West, Morgan Woodward… this list goes on and on. Interestingly, Kiefer proclaims that it’s the stars of the Western screen who are the most down-to-earth and the most obliging. “It’s no wonder,” says Kiefer, “that I’ll always feel a part of the Western scene. Whenever I get the chance, I pack my camera and head on down to the corral.” One of his favorite outings was the 1997 Golden Boot Awards, held in July at the Century City Plaza Hotel in Century City, California, where he photographed 100 Western celebrities, including Clint Walker, Jack Elam, Robert Urich, and Charles Bronson.
Reminiscing with him in his Palm Springs retreat, Kiefer slouches back against his chair, reaches his arm across the table to stir his piping hot, black coffee, and shares his most glorious moments, from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood. Indeed, Steve Kiefer lives an American dream—coming face to face with our favorite cowboys and cowgirls, and getting to know them through the lens of his camera.
Wildest Westerns: Did you meet the Beatles at the premier of A Hard Day’s Night?
Steve Kiefer: The two projectionists at the Pavilion let me sit in the projection room while running the film, and it just so happened that Ringo and John……………………………………………