In April 2009, Ken Kipps, vice president of the College Foundation, was walking down the Lawn early in the morning. “I had the best commute at that time,” he says. “I parked at the garage at Carr’s Hill and walked down the Lawn to my office in New Cabell Hall.” That morning, he stopped to take a picture with his iPhone of the doorway of New Cabell. “There were fliers arranged above the doorway like a series of keystones,” he says. Later that week he decided to start a blog with a simple concept—a new photo of the Lawn each day. He named it Lawn Life.
“The affinity people have for the Lawn is amazing,” he says. Kipps, who has worked at the University for 20 years, has a background in creative publication work and aims to give Lawn Life a particular point of view and style. “My Lawn pictures are heavy on sky, with the buildings low in the frame,” he says. He also looks for unusual sights, such as a Lawn resident’s bonsai tree tucked beneath a pillar on the west side of the Lawn. He takes nearly all of his photos on his phone, allowing him to quickly capture an image without being conspicuous.
Slowly but steadily, Lawn Life began gaining a following. The UVA Twitter account started retweeting his photos, bringing new visitors to his blog. Readers began submitting photos to be featured as guest posts. The blog has amassed more than 125,000 page views from more than 80 countries and @LawnLife has several thousand followers on Twitter. “People love pictures of the Rotunda, and pictures of the Lawn under snow,” Kipps says. Last year he began using Instagram to filter his photos. “The Instagram photos are less pure, a little more romanticized,” he says. However, they’ve become the most popular photos on the site.
For five years, Kipps kept his identity as the blog’s author hidden, saying he didn’t want UVA colleagues or friends to feel pressure to promote it. He’s experienced odd moments, like when he walked passed Lawn residents in rocking chairs discussing their appearance in a Lawn Life photo. “It’s been a fun secret,” he says, laughing.
On the blog’s fifth anniversary, he quietly revealed his identity, although his name is still not listed on the blog. He plans to continue documenting life on the Lawn for the foreseeable future. “There’s just something magical about the Lawn,” he says.