Linda Bruckheimer’s interest in photography started when she was 8 years old and was given a Brownie camera.
She has snapped photos all over the world, and in some unusual places. But for her money, nothing beats traveling country roads and seeking out-of-the-way places in Kentucky.
“The Kentucky countryside is the best place there is. There’s nothing like it,” she said.
Bruckheimer leaves iconic images of horses and horse farms to other people “who can do that so much better than I can. I’m more about telling the story of Kentucky,” she said in a recent telephone interview.
Telling that narrative was reflected in her first photo exhibit, held last October at the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort, of roadside views of the Bluegrass including clothes hung out on a clothesline to dry, an old stone barn, Wigwam Village in Western Kentucky and the Kentucky State Fair.
Her next exhibit, Local Color: Scenes From the Kentucky Roadside, will be Thursday at My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown for “An Old Kentucky Garden Party,” an event to benefit Preservation Kentucky and the Kentucky State Parks Foundation.
Garden designer Jon Carloftis will give tours of the landscaped gardens that he designed and installed last fall, using plants donated by Proven Winners.
Bruckheimer takes her camera everywhere, even to a shopping center, because she never knows what she will see when she goes out. “It could be an ordinary thing we see every day, but this time has some unusual person standing in front of it,” she said. “Things we see all the time can be transformed in a split second.”
Her game plan remains simple, she said. “I snap things that interest me,” she said. One photo could be a landscape, the next a funny sign. Half the time she’s hanging out of the car window, taking pictures while she’s driving, and the car is moving.
“It’s a miracle I’m still alive,” she chuckled.
Bruckheimer grew up in Kentucky, then as a young girl moved with her family to California. She divides her time between her farm in Bloomfield, about 42 miles southeast of Louisville, and Los Angeles where she lives with her husband, film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
She is the author of two novels, Dreaming Southern and The Southern Belles of Honeysuckle Way. Several years ago she bought and restored historic buildings on the main street in downtown Bloomfield, opening Nettie Jarvis Antiques, the Old Sugar Valley Country Store, Miss Merrifield’s Tea Room and the Olde Bloomfield Meeting Hall.
As her collection of Kentucky images grew, “Jerry actually encouraged me to do something with them because he has a good background (in photography) and he thinks I have a good eye,” she said. She first used them on note cards and postcards sold at Nettie Jarvis. Now comes one-woman exhibits.
Bruckheimer has exhibits scheduled at Revelry Boutique Gallery on May 4 in Louisville, and at the John James Audubon Museum on July 9 in Henderson.
Mathew Bailey, newly appointed park director in 2015, said fundraisers like “An Old Kentucky Garden Party” and the one Carloftis did last year after the re-do of the garden help draw visitors back to My Old Kentucky Home.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the park attracted about a half-million visitors a year, Bailey said. That number had dwindled to below 23,000 a few years ago. Declining attendance and budget cuts to the state parks kept My Old Kentucky Home from doing much needed maintenance as well as advertising.
“With these events Jon has organized, they really help breath new life back into the place,” Bailey said. Attendance is on the upswing. In 2015, for the first time since1992, “The mansion is back in the black. Finally, we can make this place profitable again,” he said.
In addition, the park hired a wedding and events coordinator in November. Virtually every weekend is booked for 2016 and reservations are being accepted for 2017, Bailey said.
“All these exhibits and events bring more people and more revenue, and with more revenue we can do more creative programming and help people experience more of the park,” he said.
The Stephen Foster Story musical, presented throughout the summer at the park’s amphitheater, opens June 11.
If You Go
An Old Kentucky Garden Party
What: Event featuring photography exhibit by Linda Bruckheimer, landscaped gardens designed by donated by Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens, the Stephen Foster Story Singers, southern hors d’oeuveres, mint juleps and Kentucky spirits.
When: 5:30-8 p.m. April 28.
Where: My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Bardstown.
Cost: $75 per person.