Alex M Wolff

Kimberly Butler Spotlight

“There is nobody like Kimberly Butler. If I could, I would plunge my hand deep into the drum of glossy black paint, and paint those words on your heart. Fortunately, I do not have to: her photographs are here, and they say it for me. “

                        Neil Gaiman

                  From forward to The Art of Fear by Kimberly Butler

A note from our publisher: As publisher of Long Island Portfolio Magazine I get to interview artists from every discipline, and at every level.  An introduction to Kimbo led to some fascination and a new lifelong friendship. She has told some amazing stories through her work at TimeLife and People magazines, as well as her own personal projects. I am thrilled to announce that photographer and documentarian Kimberly Butler will be working with us to develop content and cover stories. I prompted Kim to tell part of her story with a simple prompt.  

Meet Kimberly Butler

Long Island Portfolio Kimberly Butler George Washington Fraunces Tavern by Alex M. Wolff
Kimberly Butler Fraunces Tavern

I couldn’t have done it alone

Fellow photographer and publisher of Alex M. Wolff asked me how I was able to have a 20 + year career as a successful photographer in the toughest market in the world: NYC.

I thought about it, and said, “I have worked very hard, but I never would have made it without certain people.  Mentors, industry people, and some friends helped me along the way at pivotal moments.”

Back then, “industry people” could be taken to mean ANYTHING. And people used to ask me straight out: do you have a husband, father, or did you do something special to get that work at TimeLife? (TimeLife was one of many stops in my career.)  The answer to that question and all its innuendos, is no, no, and no. I never compromised my integrity in any way in my climb up the ladder.

Stan Fellerman

I would say it started with Stan Fellerman. An advertising photographer who was looking for an assistant. He taught me everything I know about lighting. He was generous with his time, always making sure I was learning. Stan let me use his studio to practice, and shoot the small jobs I was starting to pull in on the side. He is still one of my closest friends, and I would not be where I am, without Stan Fellerman. Stan’s mentorship helped me build a solid foundation for my career.

One day Stan got a call to shoot the rehearsal of the Nutcracker at Radio City. He didn’t shoot those types of things, so he sent me. I became the house photographer at Radio City for 7 years. I shot everybody from Sinatra to REM to the Moscow Circus to the Godmother of Soul herself,

Ruth Bader Ginsberg by Kimberly Butler
Ruth Bader Ginsberg by Kimberly Butler
Kimberly Butler with Conan O’Brien

Aretha Franklin. What a great opportunity for building an amazing portfolio. Portfolios and recommendations build a photography career, and I got my education from one of the best.

Check out Stan and his work at

Meanwhile, I got a job at a local paper in the Rockaways, “The Wave”. I started my own column, “Prominent People from The Rockaways.” This was my husband’s idea, this was his hometown. My husband, John McGuire, would become the biggest supporter of my career. Always encouraging and helping in every way.


My first assignment was Nancy Lieberman, a rebel who insisted on going against all the rules.

She would become one of the most influential basketball players in the world. I was a nervous little kid, she wasn’t much older, but she was much savvier. She was headed down to Florida to compete in a show, ABC’s “The Superstars”. Nancy, a brilliant marketer even then, suggested I call ABC photo to see if they needed a photographer.

I ended up shooting for ABC TV for 10 Years. From films to Soap Operas to News Personalities.

Eventually, I became Barbara Walters’ personal photographer, including the infamous Kaddafi interview, after President Reagan bombed his house. This trip was to play a vital role in my dealings with terrorists and all-around nasty, dangerous people. I would also learn the Art of Diplomacy from Barbara. This would be invaluable in the coming years, especially when I get kidnapped in Chechnya. Contrary to popular belief, this job is not all sunshine and lollipops. More about that, later.

People Magazine

Pretty much simultaneously, I get a call from my next Angel, John Tsilimparis John was my assistant at ABC, when I had a big job, and needed help. Out of the blue, John gave me a call “Hey, I’m at People magazine, come over, I’ll introduce you to the head photo editor, MC Marden.” For the next decade, MC would be the most demanding boss, and the one who would teach me never to settle for second best.

Under her guidance, I shot hundreds of stories for People, and not once did I come back with something that was just ok. I learned to dig so deep into myself as an artist, to not accept anything else but the very best.

With People magazine credentials, I was able to branch out into other, more financially lucrative areas. I could get appointments at Ad Agencies and big Media companies because of my reputation. So, I started going to these big media companies with the name of someone I met on a show or a publicist who liked the shots I took of their client. All of the doors began to open.

Now, let me say here: it’s like the child of a famous actor. You can get an audition and maybe an agent, but if you’re not great, you’re out. Same with me. I was going after higher-paying jobs, and that meant I had to work harder. Ha! I have to laugh. I gave every job, even the cheapest paying one, everything I had.

International Assignments

Meanwhile, my contact at Radio City leaves. It was a nice run. But this happens, nothing lasts forever. But, a month later, I get a call from the great Shara Sokol. “Yo! Kimbo, I’m up at United Jewish Appeal, I’ve got some people I want you to meet.” Up I go, and so begins my documenting the leaving of Jews out of the Former Soviet Union. Russia had a history of persecution of the Jews, and now they could leave.  Israel was sending refitted 747s over and scheduling airlifts for people who wanted to get out.

I would spend years going to places all over the FSU (the former Soviet Union). Then there was Chechnya. It started like every other airlift at the airport. People crying, saying goodbye, and excitement for the freedom from persecution that was to come. Our Israeli contact told us he was taking these people to Jerusalem and would be back in 2 days. In the meantime, my assistant and I would stay with these 2 local bodyguards and one Israeli who was stationed there.

“We want to take you to a privately owned Restaurant! They have great oxtail soup!” One of them said. Bells and whistles started to go off in my head. I wasn’t touching the soup. The guy next to me asks why. “I’m a vegetarian.” He sticks his hand, with his long dirty fingernails into the bowl, takes it out, and says, “Now, it’s vegetarian!”

Ok, this isn’t going to be as easy as I thought. My assistant and I both sensed the danger. I am going to skip a lot of frightening details, and just say we managed to get back to the hotel. We holed up through the night and escaped at 5 am. A taxi got us to the airport. “Ok, who’s going to Moscow?” I yelled out in this tiny waiting area. A Pilot came over, I “gifted him appropriately, and off we went.”  Wheels up, and I could breathe. There’s a lot more to this story, including an Israeli Commander who kept denying he was a spy. This was followed by a romantic interlude that would stretch from the ice of Russia to the romantic desert winds of the Middle East. But you’ll have to wait for the memoirs.

I had met Her Majesty Princess Alia Hussein of Jordan on assignment years before and asked her if I could get access to photograph the largest refugee camp in Jordan. I felt a need to bring pictures back and blog about what horrors ordinary people were going through in this civil war.

Princess Alia made it all possible, and I moved around the camp at ease. It was incredible how the Syrians had turned this camp into a city with a main shopping street. They would sell the tents they were given and open up a shop to meet the needs of other refugees. They are incredible people, who had lost everything and yet welcomed us in for coffee and a piece of bread. (Picture here)

Working in a refugee camp really puts things in perspective. I no longer sweat the small stuff.

And then there is life…

Twenty years ago when Neil Gaiman walked into my studio, I had no idea what impact this relationship would have on my life. It was the day I would meet my muse. In the time that has gone by, his influence and support of my artistic evolution has been extraordinary. Neil has risen to great heights in his career, as seen in his fantastic graphic novel, Sandman, coming to Netflix August fifth. The beautiful thing is, he hasn’t changed, and continues to influence my thought and creative process, and sense of who I am in today’s world. Neil influenced my Art of Fear project below.

American Library Association’s READ

I always felt it was necessary to work on projects that were of importance to our communities. While browsing one day at a book fair I came across a literary campaign. I spoke to the executive in charge, showed my work, and have been shooting Celebrities reading their favorite book for decades. I’ve been through many Heads of Graphics, but I’ve been working with Rachel Johnson for years now. Someone with amazing vision of popular culture and design.

Together, we have created one of the most beloved literacy campaigns in history ‘The American Library Association’s READ”.

So, cheers to that executive years ago, who believed in me, Linda Wallace. I am so grateful to Rachel, who can see the future. Together we keep the fight for children’s literacy at the forefront of both our lives. Still, today, when I see a celebrity, my first question is always “What’s your Favorite book?

Stephen Hawkins American Library Association’s Read

The plight of refugees would reoccur in my career, and Syrian refugees were no different. Arriving at a camp, the refugees could be seen coming out of the desert, the heat making them look like strange moving marionettes. As they got closer, you could see a man or woman carrying a child and a plastic jug of water. Walking into sanctuary in Jordan.

Publishers note – This article has been in the works for some time. Developments with Banned Books has led to this additional section.


Did I see this move to 


happening in my, America where the right and hate mongers and supremacists of all kinds constantly proclaim the right to free speech as inherent to the foundational nature of we the people. I did the READ project as I have found the thoughts and ideas in literature to be a core driver in understanding others across the spectrum of race, class, gender, nationality, and ability. It is hard to hate in an environment of understanding, while ignorance breeds unearned contempt and hatred. I read and was greatly influenced by  Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 growing up and see the movement to ban books based on ideology threatens to push our experiment of a country to failure, where ignorance is valued more than education and knowledge, and critical thinking. Expansive thinking from many viewpoints is all that encourages us to find solutions as a community and a nation.

There is something terribly Orwellian about the push to pull books off the shelves. Government should never be in the business of promoting ignorance and illiteracy. My big fear is this trend to ban books like the Nazis did in WWII, Pol Pot in Cambodia, the world Ray Bradbury envisioned in Fahrenheit 451, and Margaret Atwood portended in The Handmaid’s Tale, will leave our children with a sad and decaying society without empathy, and the largest slave class in the history of the world.  I urge you to do all in your power to reverse this trend as an important step in protecting our intellectual right to think.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

― Isaac Asimov

I have added some helpful links below.

Personal Projects

Then, I began to work on my own projects. I did a book called, “The Art of Fear”.  You can see pictures of it here and on my website at .

It’s a memoir, told in a very unusual way.

Enter Neil Gaiman, coming in for a photo shoot at my midtown New York Studio. Neil had so much experience, putting his stories out there, only to sit for 20-30 years before hitting massive commercial success with Good Omens and The Sandman. We spoke for 4 hours. He said “I love your commercial work, but those gasmask pictures, I think you’re on to something.” This is how he became my Muse, and one of my best friends.

Kimberly Butler: Art Of Fear
Kimberly Butler: Art Of Fear

That book became a journey of self-examination only after another wise friend of mine, Ruth Charny the Author, of “My Father’s Sperm” said, “Kim, you’re telling your own story”. Only then did I consciously shoot each picture interpreting my life. Without Gaiman and Charny, I would not have had this leap of self-reflection and growth.

Kimberly Butler: Alice in Opioidland photo by Alex M. Wolff
Kimberly Butler: Alice in Opioidland photo by Alex M. Wolff

Then, I get super pissed at the Sachler coven. You know, the evil brewers of OxyContin. So, I take Alice in Wonderland as my Template, and shoot one girl’s decent into addiction. It was a hit. But not without my great friend Bill Pullman, who played The White Rabbit, AKA Cocaine dealer. I knew it would get the attention I needed if I could put a celebrity in the mix.

Kimberly Butler: Bill Pullman for Alice In Opiodland
Kimberly Butler: Bill Pullman for Alice In Opiodland

And there he was for me. Friendships develop over years, but then there are your best friends. The ones who take the time to give you advice, make an introduction, pose for a campaign, or just listen when you need guidance. Treasure them. You can see Alice In Opiodland @

Kimberly Butler: Alice in Opioidland

For Access to banned books

The New York Public Library’s mission is rooted in the principles of free and open access to knowledge, information, and all perspectives—in essence, the right to read. In light of recent, prominent efforts to ban books in communities across the United States, we have now partnered with publishers Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, and Scholastic to make a small selection of commonly banned or challenged books available to anyone who chooses to read them—all for free via our e-reader app, SimplyE.

Looking ahead!

Creating great content for editorial and art directors for customers across the subject matter spectrum helps feed my soul, so I am constantly sending out and accepting proposals for new projects. My corporate clients enjoy the benefits of my art direction and track record with all kinds of celebrities and I always enjoy reading a proposal from prospective clients. It is a thrill to bring their vision to fruition even as I provide alternative visions that sometimes are chosen for their unique perspective.

I am someone who always has to produce and continue to move ahead with personal projects that make a difference in our world. Current projects include the fight against book banning and a world-historical culture project, creating images to reintroduce our roots to our current selves. Finally, supporting artists by producing their stories for the cover and inside of http://www.LongIslandPortfoloMagazine. We are helping artists and craftspeople of every kind that live, create or sell their work between Montauk and Manhattan promote themselves and their work. as artists from all over the world seek to participate in their market, I get to work with artists from all over the world.

So here is the deal. Send me an email at if you are an artist looking to promote in the general New York City area and we will see if can help.

Corporate creatives with projects that are on hold should reach out to me to discuss solutions that fit your needs. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention that I have not forgotten my roots. I still do headshots and personal branding photographs for celebrities and actors from the beginning of their careers onward, for whom image matters, right here in my midtown loft studio.


He’s my cousin. We both descend from the same 30th Grandparents, and that is a small part of a future story and project that is currently under development.

Follow Kim on Twitter at @dakimbo , on Instagram @kimberlybutlerphoto, or visit her website

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