STRENGTH & FOCUS: The inspirational story of Wilkes-Barre photographer/designer Keith Perks
If the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is true, then I hope the words-to-dollars exchange rate is good because that would put local photographer/graphic designer Keith Perks somewhere north of a billionaire. For years, he has been capturing NEPA’s beauty, artistry, and originality in his photography, as well as helping to brand local artists and businesses with his clean and professional vision.
Whether you know him personally or not, chances are you’ve seen his work in your normal daily routine adorning shirts, fliers, posters, buttons, and entertainment ads. If you frequent art exhibits, then maybe you’ve come across his award-winning photos at the Bloomsburg Fair, Fine Arts Fiesta, or Wyoming Valley Art League. And in the event that you didn’t mind the rainy weather this past weekend, then you most certainly saw his merchandise under a crowded tent at Holiday on the Square in Scranton.
A few weeks ago, I approached him about an interview because I believe his story is uplifting and shows great strength and determination. As I’ve stated before, it is my goal to use this column as a space to provide valuable information and insights, as well as highlighting local leaders and those with inspirational stories to motivate the reader towards excellence.
Soon after entering his freshman year of college in 1995, Keith Perks was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy, which kept him out of school at times for treatment. It was during this time that his passion for art began to intensify and grow, and it soon became his creative outlet. He never allowed this diagnosis to define who he truly was, and on November 20, 1996, he walked out of his last treatment. These days, if you have the chance to speak with him personally and the word “cancer” is brought up, it’s usually preceded by a four-letter word!
Perks initially had the idea for his business, 1120 Studios, in the mid-‘90s, but it wasn’t until 2003 that it began to take shape. Two years later, on his birthday, he organized a show with a few local bands at a nearby American Legion. The event was recorded live in front of 100 eager attendees and later sold as a CD. The show and recording kick-started his company (before the times of Kickstarter), 1120 Studios, and his clientele and business have been growing ever since.
Over the years, he has personally organized numerous shows, produced CDs, and created his own clothing designs; take into account the amount of events, productions, and projects that he’s been involved with as a contributor or freelance artist and his résumé is both impressive and extensive.
One particular highlight for him was getting the chance to photograph the Hell’s Kitchen Premiere Party in New York City. Recently, he was honored with an exclusive press pass to photograph the NYC Village Halloween Parade and then returned a few weeks later to shoot the winter season’s holiday attractions.
Perks has pride in his NEPA roots and his extremely supportive of the local arts and cultural scene. This year, he served as the visual designer and has been a main photographer for Sector One Entertainment’s annual MayDay Music Festival, he was hired to capture the spirit and screams of Reaper’s Revenge, and he has photographed such diverse events as the Dirty Girl Mud Run and regional roller derby bouts.
His father is an accomplished author and motivational speaker, and while the younger Perks prefers to be just outside the spotlight with a camera in between, anyone who has ever been blessed with hearing him speak knows that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Whether his humble nature allows him to admit it or not, he delivers his message passionately and with intensity and I’ve left his company many times feeling more driven and focused regarding my own endeavors.
Keith Perks is an exquisite photographer, a talented graphic designer with the ability to brand your entity with creativity and professionalism, a wonderful person and member of our community, and a dear friend. Personally, I’m truly grateful to know him as an individual and hold him as an inspiration and talented collaborator. For as long as I’ve known him, he has embodied the “heart of gold” idiom in his work, approach to life, and, most importantly, in the way he helps the people around him.