Model: Megan Lewis w/ Modelogic Wilhemina
Hair& Makeup: Jenna Baltes w/ Chicago Emerging Artists
Stylist: Misha Geno
Photo Assistant: Ashton Hansen
Special thanks to Stephanie Graham and Andrea Shipp
We are excited to present the next installment of The Handsome Project. Each month we’ll showcase an amazing young photographer who blows our minds, shoots our stuff and is all together fantastic. Read on to see the rest of Kristyna’s WAH photoshoot and interview…
How did you get to here? (What’s your photographer history?)
When I was young I was always documenting my friends and soon after I discovered my love for the tactile aspect of the darkroom. I went to Columbia College for Photography and felt very fortunate to experience those years with a particularly talented, passionate group of individuals that are currently shaping the landscape of photography today in Chicago as well as all over the world. We would all hang out and have intense critiques, which inevitably brought us very close. There were so many amazing professors I had that are genuinely concerned at your progression as an artist. I have some of my best memories there. Fast forward to assisting advertising and editorial photographers all over the globe in all genres; honestly the jobs or photographers I’ve learned the most from was when I was miserable during it. For example, learning that I would never treat my crew that way but it inevitably makes you grow up quickly. It took a moment for me to step back and realize the wealth of knowledge I gained.
Are you a self-taught photographer or did you have a mentor/teacher that showed you the ropes?
I have many mentors that still continue to guide me. Also I have mentors that don’t even know they are guiding me whom I just listen to thru the web; ie: Chase Jarvis, Rob Haggart, Blake Discher, Melissa Rodwell, or Suzanne Sease. In terms of technicalities, I received a BA in Photography. Yet you can’t teach vision.
How did you come up with the concept behind your Handsome Project shoot?
The swimwear designs brought upon ideas of a time filled with vintage patterns and cottagey artwork from the 60s or 70s. From there it dictated a model of curvature, bold lipsticks, bleached denim, and kitchy props.
What keeps you enthused in the photography industry?
Being surrounded by a passionate creative community. They say surround yourself with people that are better than you or that always brings out the best in you. That’s what I strive for.
Describe your approach in three words.
Ironic, conceptual, narrative
Black & white or colour?
Honestly I rarely convert anything to B&W these days, but there is always a time & place it’s appropriate.
Do you prefer film or digital? Why?
I hate this question! It’s like comparing apples to oranges. It’s too hard to answer. Rationally one should answer digital, but honestly I will admit I compose more efficiently with my Hasselblad making sure each of the 12 frames is gold as opposed to a memory card that can hold so much more data. Yet I normally photograph with my 5D Mark II.
My favorite would have to be my Hasselblad 503CW. Yet I did get a handle on the Canon 5DMark III and fell in love with the massive focus point system improvement.
Describe your photographic approach.
I find my inspiration in the most random of places or conversely the darkest of events. Ideas surface when I am in a content carefree state of mind. Sometimes situational humour will be the driving force, for example discovering an issue of Maxim featuring a 3D Anna Kournikova. Others lie deep in the subconscious where I feel compelled to create this vision without truly understanding why.
Again tough question- Erwin Olaf, Diane Arbus, Steven Klein, Guy Bourdin, Sally Mann, and the newly discovered Vivian Maier
You’re killing me. I’m always changing my mind. Right now I would say Diane Arbus’s Child with Hand Grenade or Richard Avedon’s portrait/outtake of Marilyn Monroe. Honestly nothing has moved me more than viewing Sally Mann’s lush prints in person at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006 at the So the Story Goes exhibition, among other incredibly talented artists. Her range to stretch the tonalities of black and white gave me the chills. If we are leaving out the rich and famous and focus on pure photographic genius, emotive imagery, and technique, I would say Sally Mann.
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
People who say no. People who are always safe and aren’t willing to take risks or break the rules to create art. Some people don’t understand rules need to be bent for the evolution of art. For me if it means I trespass for my creative vision to come to fruition, there won’t be much that can stop me.
How do you decide on locations & subjects for your shoots?
The concept boils while I search for the appropriate location for it to take place. Then I cast the part(s) depending on the concept, whether I need a person that resembles a powdered donut or a male model who’s great at showing expressions of pleasure. I think my process is much like a director but minus audio and working in stills. Of course transitioning into motion is in the near future.
If you could take your photography in any direction without fear of failure or rejection, where would it lead? What new things would you try?
I would delve into much larger scale productions if fear of failure or budget were never an issue. Right now I already think too big for my britches, but I’ve never heard that thinking big had any disadvantages. For example, Gregory Crewdson works with huge sets with many working parts to gain ultimate control of large locations so he can get exactly what he wants.
Best advice you’ve ever received.
The time is now. This is the time when you have nothing to lose and you are not jaded by the naysayers.
What is the one quality you think is needed for a photographer to be great?
Self-sustaining happiness through creating your own work. You’re the only person that is going to keep you going. Honestly I think its silly when people disdain these photographers with huge egos (I’ve worked with my fair share but it doesn’t bother me) because conversely your lack of confidence and vision in your work will eat you alive and land you a 9-5 at a small town portrait studio. Healthy ego + graciousness to everyone that has supported your vision in some way is the right balance. Now an ego that starts to condescend clients and crew will eventually bring to your demise. Everyone will watch with pleasure.
Where to next?
Creating some video content.
We’d like to send a big thankyou to Kristyna for putting together this Handsome Project shoot. If you love Kristyna’s shoot as much as we do, you can find her online at her website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook.