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John Koster

John Koster

John Koster is a Milwaukee native, born and raised on the east side. He attended Shorewood High School, The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and the University of Minnesota, and has had several careers, from social work to law enforcement and, most recently, finance and sales. 

John is father to two University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduates and spends his free time wandering the streets of Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin with camera in hand or in his studio doing portraiture.  He is currently working on a new photography/essay project on seniors and poverty that he hopes to publish in 2018.

He began experimenting with 35mm photography while serving in Vietnam.  His homecoming and reintegration proved difficult, however, and eventually Leroy found himself living on the streets—where he honed his photographic mindset and perspective.  Himself a subject of many non-homeless photographers, Leroy discovered that many of the well-meaning photographers were actually quite impersonal, and he told himself that if he ever got off the streets that he would return to photograph and create relationships with his subjects.  He knew that he would focus on people’s faces, especially their eyes, which, when “frozen in time,” are evocative and supremely human.

Now known affectionately as “Cameraman” by those experiencing homelessness, Leroy has worked on the St. Ben’s Community Meal Program annual calendar for the past 21 years and works each year for Help-Portrait Milwaukee, which offers free photo shoots for underprivileged families in December.  To be known as “Cameraman,” Leroy says, is both humbling and rewarding.  He says that his life as a photographer has been an incredible 61-year-old journey. 

ZIP MKE was pleased to feature the first public exhibition of Leroy’s work at the Tippecanoe Library in February 2017. 

See more of Leroy’s work at