By Phyl Newbeck
Armed with a college degree in photo journalism and youthful idealism, Karen Pike began a career in newspapers. She started at the Tampa Tribune before moving to the Boston Herald and then joining the Burlington Free Press in 1988. In 1995 she was promoted to photo editor but found the job was mostly administrative. Missing the work she was trained to do and recognizing that the newspaper industry had changed significantly, Pike left the Free Press to start her own photography business. In 2007, the Hinesburg resident joined fine arts photographer Jeff Clark in a photo studio on Flynn Avenue.
When Pike started Karen Pike Photography, there weren’t many wedding photographers in the state, so she was extremely busy. As more and more photographers joined the industry, she began to branch out to commercial work and portraiture but she continues to love her role in these life-affirming events. “After every wedding I come home and say how much I loved the couple,” she said. Pike enjoys the fact that many members of the gay community come to Vermont for their nuptials, often eschewing the traditional wedding season. A new documentary by Jeff Kaufman called “The State of Marriage,” which chronicles the fight for marriage equality in Vermont, features a number of Pike’s photographs of these events.
Having grown up in a Jewish household, Pike is also sought after for b’nai mitzvah ceremonies. She contributed photographs for a book of portraits of Vermont Jewish women that has travelled the state and become part of the national archives. Pike also created a coffee table book for the late artist Stephen Huneck. The owner of four dogs, she enjoys doing canine portraiture.
Pike’s work has appeared in major newspapers including the New York Times but she downplays that achievement. “If you shoot long enough you’ll shoot some piece of news,” she said “and if you build up enough of a reputation, eventually you’ll get a call.” Pike said she no longer gets called by the Times because she turned down the last few requests. “I don’t need to build up my resume anymore,” she said. “I have two kids in college and I’m not going anywhere. I’m sure I’ll be doing portrait and event work for the next 10 to 15 years. It’s who I am. I love what I do.”
Pike and her wife moved to Hinesburg in 2002. “I love everything about Hinesburg,” she said. “I love the mix of white and blue collar and the loyal, strong community. My kids flourished here. It’s safe, it’s pretty, and I love my neighbors.”
One of Pike’s biggest clients is the state of Vermont which has just commissioned her to update the photo archives for the women, infants, and children (WIC) program using actual clients. She is happy to be able to combine her commercial work with something which is closer to what she had in mind when she began her career in photography. “All in all,” she said “I think I have a good balance between my commercial work and private portraiture and event work and some of the meatier work which is more for my soul.”