Photographer based in Santa Fe, NM
Lindsey Kennedy, Portrait of the Photographer
Tell us about yourself, what's your background?
I grew up dedicated to dance and performance and was lost when I no longer enjoyed being in front of a crowd. I fell into photography in college when I inherited a 35mm film camera that seemed to have a mind of its own. It would interpret light in almost counter-intuitive ways and created streaks and halos at random. I became enamored with learning how to intuitively work with such an unpredictable tool. Through street photography I found moments of abstract beauty in discarded objects or the thoughtless “design” of people making functional and decorative decisions in the same space over time. I explored portraiture and learned to capture and manipulate mood and personality within a studio setting. My recent body of work combines the two into the abstraction of typically discarded materials and the infusion of mood and personhood with those studio methods. Although I initially saw my constant use of a camera as a compulsion to document, I realized over time that I was developing an artistic practice that was deeply meaningful to me.
"Although I initially saw my constant use of a camera as a compulsion to document, I realized over time that I was developing an artistic practice that was deeply meaningful to me."
What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?
I have two ongoing projects, “Glass Eye,” which is a still-life study of texture and fabric, and an observational street photography practice that divides itself amongst a few bodies of work. “Glass Eye” started a few years ago when I began saving scrap materials and trash that I was drawn to. Vivid colorful objects really stand out against the palette of the desert where I live, so I found myself picking up glass fragments on walks, saving green saran wrap from my job or photographing glossy food from my kitchen. I have been told the resulting work is less like traditional still life and more akin to boudoir portraiture of paper scraps, trash and fruit. Some of my biggest influences are fashion photographers and I do approach these objects with an admiring, intimate gaze.
Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in an artist's practice. What do you do for inspiration?
I have been painting with watercolor and acrylic as a color study and a meditative practice. I find exploring other mediums has a huge impact on my work while being free of expectation and pressure. I also work at an art book publisher and witnessing the way a monograph takes shape and the design decisions that heighten the work through curation and arrangement has been really inspiring.
Where do ideas start for you? In the studio or being in the world?
Lately my process has been focused on exploring textures and materials I’ve been attracted to since I was very young. I am curious what my fixations are about and why they are so hard to shake. A lot of time is spent circling my studio observing these items and imagining their combinations. I’m also interested in distorted but familiar reality, uncanny moments like this are abundant out in the world and I take those sensations with me and attempt to recreate them.
How do you make your work? Where do you start and how does the process evolve?
I have always had an observational approach to making photos and for a long time I was only interested in this reactive style of shooting. I followed my favorite people around making endless portraits of them. My still life work was a big leap--I am still adjusting to creating a composition rather than coming across it. I think this practice suits me though, and I am unconstrained by things like time or distance or weather. It is less manic and can be more satisfying. My style is heavily influenced by the dynamic nature and inimitable texture of film. I am always chasing softness and a sense of soothing with how the work is presented.
Many artists live by their creative routines, do you have your own studio ritual? What does that look like for you?
Ideas tend to come to me at night as I wind down, and I let them build up in my notebook until I set aside time in the studio. Music or podcasts are a must, heat is on full blast regardless of season, and there’s always a coffee on its second reheating.
Who are your biggest influences?
Birds, vegetation, curtains, glass, dirt, painters, fashion, my sisters, my creator friends and my partner.
Fashion photographers like Ib Kamara, Alexander Saladrigas, Zhang JiaCheng, painters like Helen Frankenthaler, Emma Bernhard, Marie Irmgard, fashion houses like Vaquera and Eckhaus Latta.
Are there books or films that are an important source of inspiration?
My grandparents worked in publishing and photography and every year at Christmas they bring boxes of books from their massive archive or from thrift stores and library sales. I have found the ones I keep picking up are 1970s photo essays on “the microscopic world” and especially The Creation by Ersnt Haas. He described himself as “a painter in a hurry,” which is something that deeply resonates with me.
How will Innovate Grant contribute to your practice?
I have sourced a lot of my materials by repurposing discarded items, but I’m actively investing in paints, ink, paper, fabric and film. During quarantine I stopped using film because of the associated costs. I intend to add this format back to my practice and invest in new studio materials I’ve had my eye on.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Get comfortable with being bad at new things. There is so much vulnerability in creating, especially in a medium with a steep learning curve outside of formal education and one that can be so cost-prohibitive. I made progress when I was encouraged to allow myself to make work I didn’t like.
What is the best advice you would give to other artists?
Experimentation will often be hugely productive without feeling like it at all.