The Bestest Photographer: Brian Kuhlmann

Owner of Santa Barbara’s Porchlight Studio Shot Our Best of Santa Barbara® Issue

The heftiest photography assignment of each year for the Santa Barbara Independent is to shoot this week’s Best of Santa Barbara® issue, a sprawling showcase of which businesses, places, and people our readers voted as the tops in town. Brian Kuhlmann accepted the challenge for 2021, and he spent months capturing the happy winners with their wide, thankful smiles from the car dealers and furniture makers to restaurateurs and bartenders.

Kuhlmann, who owns Porchlight Studio on the Westside, tells us more about himself below. 

Where are you from originally? 

I hail from the Midwest (St. Louis) by way of La La Land. I’ve spent a dozen years battling the cold weather in Chicago and another 12 basking in the sun in Los Angeles.

What attracted you to Santa Barbara? 

Family and quality of life brought me to the American Riviera. I stumbled across an amazing studio and never looked back.

What draws you to photography? 

I don’t remember life without photography. I started my business as a junior in high school after working an internship at a boudoir photography studio. That was 40 years ago. Funny thing is, I never pursued that type of work. I liked the money and fame shooting for advertising clients.

How was shooting this week’s issue? 

Meeting and photographing the amazing people that won Best Of is a gift that keeps giving. Everyone was gracious, inviting, and open to ideas. After the crazy, isolated year of the pandemic, it was refreshing to meet the movers and shakers of my new town.


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