Kim Simmons was one of the original photographers for Kenner/Hasbro and is responsible for the amazing pictures on the vehicle and playset boxes from the original Kenner Star Wars line back in the 1980’s up through Kenner’s transition to Hasbro in the early 90’s and up until 2000. I met Kim on Facebook and helped him out with some promotion for his Facebook page at the time. Kim is a very nice person so talking with him and working with him was extremely easy and personable.
When I created this website he was also one of the first people I reached out to for an interview as he is without a doubt a very important and notable part of vintage Star Wars toy history.
What follows is a brief but informative interview we conducted via email. If you’re a vintage Star Wars toy collector you’ll definitely want to read this interview and check Kim’s work out at the links he provides at the end. Enjoy!
Before we get started give people a little background on who you are and your role in vintage Star Wars toys.
My name is Kim D M Simmons, I started photographing the Star Wars toy line in 1981 when I started working for Roy Frankenfield after leaving Grad school – still needing my thesis to be completed.
Roy was (he is now long gone) a photographer who really was the first or second photographer to shoot the Star Wars toy line. The other man was Big Jack Wehmeier, a noted Food photographer in Cincinnati at the time. While Jack moved on back to food and other avenues, he also did the Display work since the design company was across the hall, and Roy continued to shoot the toy line as well as P&G lines that were a staple of the day.
1) How did you end up becoming the go-to photographer for vintage Star Wars toys?
As I stated previously I worked with Roy and I became, I am guessing, known for quick turn-arounds and getting it right, mostly never asking, “is this good enough” as I handed the client the film.
I just thought quickly on my feet and was able to take good notes in my head and deliver the image on film or print as requested.
2) Did you get to keep any of the toys you photographed?
Actually yes I did and had them all up until about 1999.
3) What were some of the more difficult shots to obtain?
The Hoth Battle Scene I did in 1982.
4) What were some of your favorite final shots that were used?
The AT-AT and AT-ST images. Just about any scene that I was able to create a diorama for. Those were a PIA but very satisfying, at least in my mind.
5) Did you shoot anything else Star Wars besides toys?
I did a few coloring books, a tooth brush , a few odds and ends.
6) When did you stop working with Kenner/Hasbro?
I stopped at the end of 2000, when Kenner / Hasbro left Cincinnati.
7) What is the secret to a great photo when it comes to toys?
Not sure it’s a secret, it’s just hard work and working with great designers.
8) What kind of equipment did you use to shoot your photos?
35mm Nikons, Hasselblads, 4×5 Cambo’s, 8×10 Deardorf’s and an 8×10 Century.
Pretty much anything that took film and was good. Later when I shifted to Digital in 1991 or 1992, I lost track of the date, I used DCS470 then shifted to a DCBII Leaf on a SInar 4×5, a Leaf Catchlight on a Mamiya RB67 then a PhaseOne digital back hung on a Mamiya RZ67.
9) Have you been surprised by the reaction of fans to your work?
Yes, I have to say I was surprised. I know Roy would be as well. He just never thought any of the Star Wars images were anything more than props to sell the toys.
10) Did you ever think so many years later you’d still be talking about Star Wars?
No way, but it is OK, because I’ve been able to hold on to old friends through Star Wars and rekindle old friendships.
11) What other toylines did you photograph over the years?
NERF, Chuck Norris, Steele. Basically I shot different toys of different lines when the photographer who did a particular line was busy. I always made time, there are 24 hours in a day you know.
12) Do you personally have a favorite Star Wars movie?
All of them I consider favorites, but I guess because I shot so much for them, it would be ESB and Return [of the Jedi].
13) Who coined the term “the man who shot luke skywalker”?
Bob Woods who was the man who interviewed me for the article he did in Star Wars Galaxy magazine, I think he was an editor at the time.
14) Is photography still a part of your life?
I am not currently active having had to retire a few years ago, but I do print all my own prints.
15) Where can people find you online?
A few places
1. Facebook under themanwhoshotlukeskywalker
2. website #1 www.themanwhoshotlukeskywalker.com which is currently being reworked and has been down for awhile.
3. our alternative website www.themanwhoshotlukeskywalker.net which eventually will just be an online archive to view images with an active link to the primary site. But this site will host the newest images we have prepared for printing and viewing.
4. People can always email me at manwhoshotskywalker [AT] me.com to ask questions or just to talk. I will always answer, sometimes right away, and sometimes I forget to answer but then I print out the question for later, but eventually I will answer. But if I don’t people have my permission to bug me until I do answer.
Kim sells prints online of the photos he took for Kenner & Hasbro which you can purchase online. Just email him for more information or visit him on Facebook. Also look for him at various conventions where he sells prints as well.