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Monday, April 13, 2015

Studio G's New Location A Beautiful 55-Acre Farm

Grass & Roots Farm, Camp Springs, KY; photo by Kierston Gray, studio G
The farm—previously owned by the Darlingtons—wasn't even for sale. Kierston Gray, photographer and owner of studio G, was at her niece's birthday party. A guest mentioned her childhood farm, how it had been sitting empty for the last 12 years. The next day, on a whim, Gray's husband, Chris, hopped on his motorcycle and went to check it out. It was a beautiful November day in 2011. Chris immediately rode back home and told Kierston and their daughters to get in the truck—they had to check this place out.

studio G, located on North Fort Thomas Ave. for six years, hasn't closed up shop. Rather it's moved to a 55-acre farm in Camp Springs, KY.

Back to 2011. The farm was in deep neglect. The Grays were happy in their 1960s Fort Thomas ranch-style house. Two of their daughters were at school in Fort Thomas (their oldest, now 25, having already moved away from home). But throughout the winter, Kierston and Chris couldn't stop thinking about the land. In spring 2012, they made an offer.

The Grays' Fort Thomas home sold quickly, so the family simply dived in. The immersed themselves in books on farming. They completely redid the farmhouse, excavated the land, put up fences and built a gorgeous five-stall barn. Three years later, they've transformed their 55 acres into a home.

It's late morning on a stormy spring day when I turn onto the half-mile gravel driveway that leads to Grass & Roots Farm. I drive slowly, in part because I have to (which is one of the reasons Kierston says she loves the long lane) and in part because I want to take it all in—the beauty of this place—located just about 10 miles from the heart of Fort Thomas.

Kierston waves to me from her immaculate barn, where she's been mucking stalls. Her husband works in the industrial concrete business. Her two younger daughters, 15 and 10, are at school—still in Fort Thomas (the family now pays tuition). And Kierston still works full time as a photographer. She shoots on location now, in addition to bringing many of her clients to Grass & Roots Farm. She's done many Highlands High School students' senior portraits and considers it a specialty. "The senior girls just love coming here," she says.

photos by Kierston Gray, studio G
Kierston is a self-taught photographer, having learned the technical aspects of the craft via books, practice and workshops—much like she's educated herself on farming. Kierston opened studio G in Fort Thomas in the summer of 2008 after having owned a franchise portrait studio for seven years. With years of experience and having become technically proficient, Kierston now focuses on location shoots—both throughout Cincinnati and on her farm. She's people savvy—it's a strong point she says she uses to connect with her clients in order to portray who they really are.

But these days, in addition to shooting and editing pictures, Kierston wakes up early every morning to spend a couple hours working in the barn. That's the thing about farming—you can't take a day off and, as Kierston points out, there is always so much to do. Working the 10 acres of pastures. Blazing trails through the woods. Mending fences. Mucking stalls. Caring for the horses, which are tricky animals, Kierston says (they have a trainer who helps). Kierston also plants an organic garden—she sold produce at the Fort Thomas Farmers' Market last year. Most recently she's working on Grass & Roots Stables, hoping to run pony summer day camps for children ages 6 to 13 who are interested in riding and caring for horses.

Kierston's younger daughters have completely taken to the horses, caring for them, and riding in their own riding arena as well as at competitions. Ribbons adorn the family's barn. It's a new way of life for the Gray family, but one that has dovetailed nicely into the life they once lived in Fort Thomas.

Kierston Gray, owner of studio G and Grass & Roots Farm; photo by Kierston Gray, studio G

"I'm a city girl at heart," Kierston says. "I want to be where the people are, I want to live in a place that's culturally diverse. And that's the beauty of this place. It's so removed, so peaceful, so quiet—and when the city gets to be too much, I can be here in 15 minutes." 


  1. We miss Kierston and Chris, they were great neighbors. Kierston does awesome work.

  2. I would not use Kierston's services. She did a terrible job with our family photos and her prices were outrageous.