Mikael Kennedy is a prolific photographer whose work has appeared in countless campaigns for world class brands, and his lifestyle photos are constantly appearing between the covers of magazines such as GQ, Vogue, and Garden & Gun.
And yet his beginnings as a creative were humble. In past interviews, Kennedy has recounted his initial process and equipment set-up was a photographer growing up on the East Coast. The tales are not of fancy DSLRs and great tripods. In an interview on the Apolis Blog, Kennedy had this piece of advice to offer young photographers:
“It’s not about equipment, it’s not about what type of camera you use, it’s only about the vision you have that you are constructing. The first book I self-published I shot with a $30 toy camera, because that’s all I could afford. Ignore what everybody else is doing and just go out and take pictures and build your own unique body of work.”
As creatives, sometimes our limitations are what make us — well — creative. Scrappier. More resilient and resourceful. At least I hope this is the case. Our limitations can put us on the fringe and yet, sometimes I feel this ‘lone wolf’ status forces our hand and tells us to put our heads down and just keep plugging away. Working to create the work that feels truest to our most authentic selves. Perhaps these very limitations that Mikael goes on the describe below are what develop the architecture of our aesthetic. Could these early stages of struggle in any creative endeavor be what lays the groundwork for the overarching themes of our career?
In another interview with Paradigm magazine, Kennedy spoke of his thoughts on making it through tough times and how to be resilient in the face of stagnation and slow starts:
The show Shoot the Moon was named based on a conversation I had with my friend David Lamb while leaving the blood bank in Seattle, Washington. At the time we were both at the beginning of things and in the middle of a journey, but most of all we were both down and out at the time. We were broke, and wandering. David was in the process of beginning his now well recognized folk project under the title of Brown Bird (I highly recommend checking them out), and I was building up to the Still, Not Dead series and wandering around the city at night shooting Polaroids. At one point in the conversation I had said to Dave that all the scars we were gathering on our bodies and in our lives could turn into something beautiful. It was like a game of hearts. If we got enough of these bad cards, then at the end you got all the hearts and you could win. But if you only went halfway you would lose. So in part, the focus became on the journey, on the gathering of the cards, on the experiences and less on the end result.
It’s been so cool to follow Kennedy — one of my favorite photographers — develop into an intensely talented photographer whose most recent work has expanded far past the medium of Polaroid cameras. And although his ads for Billy Reid, Filson, and Schott are certainly powerful, evocative, moody, and visually impressive, it is his work taking photos with polaroids that still continues to get me. Maybe it’s the handmade aspect of the work itself. The fact that a Polaroid is so simple mechanically, that it can only create these beautifully sleepy and dreamy images that are a surprise every time one hits the shutter. Or maybe it is the fact that the Polaroid was Kennedy’s initial foray into the world of photography and therefore often displays his work un it’s most raw and honest form.
See for yourself at mikaelkennedy.com, where all of his zines, art books, and prints will be available for purchase at a 15% discount until the end of the year for a seasonal sale that is actually very worthy of your attention.