By Jed Keith
It started with a podcast.
“It all goes back to Penny Royal,” said Kevin Newsome, co-owner of Nicholasville-based Beyond Sight Studios, when asked when his love for photography and videography began.
After hearing this podcast — an exploration of tales in Somerset and Pulaski County that skew toward the unusual and off-beaten path — and watching Hellier, an Amazon Prime docuseries that investigates these strange tales, Newsome and his wife, Beyond Sight co-owner Jessica Yi, felt compelled to see the area for themselves.
Coming to Somerset, meeting the Penny Royal team and doing some investigating of their own for a personal project in Daniel Boone National Forest was the impetus for the husband/wife duo to purchase their first camera in April 2020. Building a photography business, however, was not something they considered at the time.
But build a business they have. In one short year, the studio has been well immersed in the Somerset arts scene, and Yi and Newsome have been chosen as the featured photographers for the 28th annual Master Musicians Festival.
So much has changed for Newsome and Yi during the last year. Neither had professions connected to photography, and yet they built a business during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, something at which Yi marvels.
“It’s a crazy thing, especially during COVID, to leave your old job and go into your own business,” Yi admitted, “but we were given so many opportunities since the beginning.”
Newsome added, “It all worked out in a strange way. Things lined up and we followed the clues presented to us.”
The love they developed for photography during that first personal project seems to have spurred their passion for the business they eventually built, despite the uncertainties of 2020.
“After buying a camera that could film in 4K, we just fell in love with photography,” Newsome said. “Taking pictures. Capturing moments. And the video aspect of it as well.”
That love is something Yi admits she had never considered as a career.
“I do all sorts of art, and I was into photography prior to starting our business,” Yi explained. “It was just a hobby I liked.”
It’s a hobby-turned-career that has yielded so many blessings and opened various doors not previously available, but Newsome and Yi credit those opportunities to being open to new possibilities.
“Since we started,” Newsome said, “we wanted to keep it open and not focus on just one aspect of photography and videography. We want to learn as much as we can about everything so more opportunities can come.”
Those opportunities are wide and varied, with everything from family photo sessions to video ads to working with Somerset businesses such as Jarfly and Lemonjuice McGee’s Comic Cavalcade.
Their work has been influenced not only by local businesses and Penny Royal, but the community’s local artists .
“We work with [local artist] Dan Dutton every Sunday,” Yi said.
“Dan is an amazing person,” Newsome added. “His whole existence is art, and it’s amazing to be around someone like that who sees the world the way he does,” adding that there’s a reciprocity to their partnership, with each impacting how the other sees their work.
“We’ve gotten the chance to record songs from his operas and some songs he’s never officially recorded,” Newsome said. “To able to create something new with someone who has done so much is an honor.”
That collaborative spirit extends to other local artists and entrepreneurs, including Cody Lee Meece, an MMF 28 performer with whom Yi and Newsome are recording a music video, as well as Jason Stephens, co-owner of Somerset’s comic book and pop culture store, Lemonjuice McGee’s Comic Cavalcade. The duo has filmed promotional videos for the store.
“Beyond Sight has been amazing to work with, both for their photo and video work,” Stephens said. “Not only are Kevin and Jessica tremendous talents, but they’re also just great humans.”
The reputation that Newsome and Yi have gained in their short time as photographers and visitors of Pulaski County speaks volumes about their talent and character and led to their selection as the featured photographers of this year’s Master Musicians Festival.
“Every year, we choose one photographer to be our official photographer to document the year through their eyes,” MMF Executive Director Tiffany Finley said. “It is important to the festival for us not only to have beautiful pictures of our artists, but for us to remember what made each MMF year special: its people.”
So it’s somewhat ironic — and maybe serendipitous — that Yi and Newsome credit Pulaski County’s people, and their stories, for being here in the first place.
“The biggest influence on our work is the people of Somerset,” Newsome said.
Yi echoed her husband’s sentiments. “We’ve never met anyone who sees the world like the people in Somerset do,” she said.
The pair hopes to elevate the people of Somerset, who have opened Newsome and Yi to new vistas and possibilities, during MMF.
“It’s about being able to see what’s possible,” Newsome said, “when amazing, creative people show you different perspectives.”
Finley said the MMF board is excited to have a husband/wife duo as featured photographers this year; Yi and Newsome share that excitement.
“Being selected as featured artists [for MMF] is a little mind-blowing,” Newsome said. “It’s such an incredible opportunity for us to have our work seen on a larger scale.”
Added Yi, “Not even a year ago, we were just starting on this journey, learning along the way. We felt the universe speaking to us, guiding us to where we were supposed to be. Being asked to be the featured photographers for MMF is proof enough, for us, that we made the right decision.”
“We are beyond grateful for this opportunity, and we can’t wait to capture the magic of MMF,” Newsome said.
MMF’s featured photographer is granted an all-access pass for the weekend to capture the festival in its entirety. For more information about Beyond Sight Studios, follow them on Facebook and Instagram @BeyondSightStudios.