SmokeLong’s Art Director Ashley Inguanta sat down with conceptual photographer Katelin Kinney to discuss process and new projects.
I love the way your work translates concept into image. Can you tell me more about that process?
There are two ways that I go about conceptualizing an image. The first way is to start with an idea of the meaning behind the photo. “Seed of a Soul” is a good example. I had no idea what the visual tools were that I was going to use (model, roots, ground, flower, etc), but I knew I wanted to create an image centered around the idea that I believe every soul is born neither good nor bad, but neutral, and it is up to our own choices to grow our souls into something positive or negative. So I knew I had words like “grow” and “soul” floating around in my head. When I start with concepts I’ll sometimes just jot down any word that comes to mind that is associated with the mood or idea: grow, develop, life, experience, plant, pretty, calm, think, feel, thorn, flower, seed, etc. From those words I can start pulling image ideas that eventually come together to create my final photo.
The second way that I come about my photos is to be struck with a powerful visual. This could be a prop, model, a random image that comes to mind after listening to a song, anything. I may not know how to use this visual tool yet, but I think it’s powerful so I save it in the back of my mind for a rainy day. For instance I passed by an old abandoned house one day that was broken down in the middle. It just looked so odd, almost as if it was imploding right down the middle into two halves. Obviously I had to stop and take a photo of it, but I had no idea what to use it for. I don’t ever want to rush a concept. If I have a really cool visual and end up using it in just a pretty picture without any meaning or story behind it I feel as if I’ve just lost out on a great opportunity and cheated that prop/location/model out of being something more than just visually interesting. So looking at the house I began thinking up this story of what happened inside this house to create such destruction. Out of brainstorming this around for a while I came up with my image “Broken Home,” which many people have told me really speaks to them about their experience directly or indirectly with divorce. To me that is so much more satisfying than just posting a picture of a cool looking abandoned house.
Also, who are some of your favorite conceptual photographers?
There are so many, but some of my favorites that I regularly follow are Aaron Nace, the creator of Phlearn; Rob Woodcox, who is basically the top dog right now of conceptual surreal photography; Robert Cornelius, who is a great guy and awesome photographer that I got to meet and work with this past winter; Rosie Hardy, who creates flawlessly beautiful images and portraits; Alexa Sinclair from Australia creates such insanely detailed setups and images that are just inspiring; and Miss Anelia is a surreal fashion photographer that also creates some pretty elaborate set ups.
What projects are you currently working on?
Well, I started a 365 project last September, but I’ve sort of fallen off the bandwagon with that one, ha ha. I do fully intend to finish my 365 project, but I may end up being a couple months late on the deadline. Creating one photo every day is pretty tough when you put in hours of photoshop on each one. I’m currently around number 160. Aside from that I’m pursuing a career in advertising, which is where I’ve always wanted my photography to go. I’m interning currently at an agency in Cincinnati, Ohio for the summer and learning quite a lot about the structure of the advertising agency world. Archive is a great magazine that gathers the top advertising images from around the world. So many surreal and conceptual works are in there and that is a huge inspiration to see these artists being paid to create such great work.
If you could collaborate with one artist, who would it be and why?
It would honestly probably be a director or videographer. I don’t really follow anyone specific in that field, but I’ve always loved music videos and films. When I watch a movie I’m not only taking in the story, but I pay really close attention to the angles, lighting, movement, and cuts of the scenes. Those aspects are just as important if not more so for creating the mood and escapism of movies and videos. So directors and anyone in the video/film genre are people I very much admire.