Q&A: ‘The Man on the Corner,’ David Killeen

In this age full of flourishing social media, an important question arises: If a photograph is taken and it is not instantly uploaded to Instagram for all your followers to see, does it really exist?

In the case of David Killeen, it does. Ever since his first encounter with a camera more than five decades ago, Killeen has been taking pictures and giving them away for free. For the past four years, students have seen Killeen sitting on the corner of Citrus Avenue and Foothill Boulevard photographing anyone and anything he deems worthy. His favorite time to take pictures is after chapel on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The Clause recently sat with Killeen in order to gain a better understanding of the renowned Man on the Corner.

Clause: How long have you been photographing the students?
Killeen: This will be four years. Before that, I was in real estate. I have always given pictures away since I first started doing this 50 years ago. People always ask me to come photograph weddings and birthday parties, and I just don’t do it. But if I get to know you and you get married, I’ll come take pictures for you and give them to your mother.

Clause: Why don’t you photograph professionally?

Killeen: A long time ago, a guy told me something when I first started. He said: “If you give them away, it’ll always be a hobby, and you’ll always enjoy it. Nobody can complain. But if you put a price tag on it, you’ll start to complain about charging too much or not charging enough.”

Clause: Where do you put the photographs?
Killeen: I have four big albums of pictures people don’t pick up. I don’t know what to do with them. I think I’ll give them to your alumni association sometime. A lot of the pictures I’ve been taking lately I have been giving to the museum over there in Azusa.

Clause: What is your favorite subject to capture?
Killeen: I guess the kids. If you just look through the books, you’ll see all the smiles. I’ve taken pictures of teachers and they seem pretty happy, as well as the trolley guys, drivers. Even the little guys who run around in those motor scooters. But if you got a crummy smile on you, you’re not going to get a picture. Not for that reason, but I don’t want you to get embarrassed, you know? I try to do that, but if you’re really funny-looking, you’re going to get a picture. I’ve probably taken pictures of everything. I’ve had people making pyramids out here in the corner. There are people jumping around like yo-yos, but they are the neatest kids. They tell me their names and I forget them in 10 minutes.

Clause: When did you receive your first camera?
Killeen: I’ll bet you I was 10 or 11 years old. I had a little Brownie Hawkeye camera that used to shoot flash bulbs. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I remember the box and everything. I’ve gone through a lot of cameras since then. You always want the next one up. When I learn how to work something on here, I forget it the next day and gotta start all over, so that’s making it hard. And I’ve got Parkinson’s now, so I tell the kids I’m taking moving pictures.

Clause: What’s the craziest picture that you’ve taken?
Killeen: I used to like to take pictures of wrecks. I saw a guy die in a Corvette one time and it kind of turned me off. I went into the dark room to print it up and I saw him still in the car. Oh man, I came running out of there, and I haven’t taken a whole lot of them since that moment. In those days, if there was a wreck, you could walk right up to it. Now if you see a wreck, there’s cops chasing you all over the place.

Clause: What is your favorite picture?
Killeen: People always ask, ‘What’s your favorite picture?’ and I always say the last one I took.