Ludique

KELIA ANNE MACCLUSKEY

Kelia Anne MacCluskey

Interview and Introduction by Jack Sommer

It was an unusually warm afternoon in late December when I first had a chance to talk with Kelia in-person. I got off the train at Prince Street, hopping from the 1 train to the N/R line, where I met up with Kev at the busy SoHo intersection where the subway exit lets out. We headed over to the Angelika Film Center where we were scheduled to meet up with Kelia. I had been to the theater once before to see Paul Thomas Anderson's movie Inherent Vice, and I had noticed that there was plenty of room for people to sit and chat without needing a ticket for a film (which they only checked once you got up to a certain point). Needing a semi-quiet and chill place to talk, I figured it would be a good location.

Inherent Vice was made in 2014 but takes place in 1970, existing in an almost surreal world of its own. In an Indiewire review, they describe it as "so genuinely authentic it exhibits a dreamy mood of faded memory and innocence lost." The same can be said for Kelia's work, although traversing several decades all at once throughout her images. Her colors are rich, even when they're not that saturated. Her subjects exude poses and facial expressions that all stay consistent within the world she creates. Her frames show what you need to gain from the image, nothing less and nothing more. 

Arriving with her friends Taylor and Cody, we greet each other on the front steps of the theater. An hour later, we've finished the interview. 

Photos of Kelia by Jack Sommer

Photos of Kelia by Jack Sommer

The interview was originally supposed to be for the purposes of a cover feature on a physical Ludique issue. We were almost certain that it was something we were going to do, and I had already thought of Kelia for the spot when I saw she was in New York for a few days. Making sure I didn't miss a chance, I reached out to her and we locked it in. Following that, we continued the research on the best options to get it printed. Months of research and weighing the options continued into the Spring, but at some point it just fell apart as a way to go. While I really love a printed copies of magazines, getting them made is a highly outdated process that doesn't match up with the times we're living in. Not only is it just very expensive (particularly for delivering to a smaller audience), but when you are very insistent on details like paper stock - as I am - it's difficult and almost impossible to have it come together just like you want it to at anywhere close to a reasonable process. Alas, that's life, and you move on. Luckily I do know a thing or two about building websites, truly the publishing medium of this new era, and decided to just make a new design for our site in general and for Kelia's feature in particular.

Usually our interviews aren't this long, and most people or publications would cut it down. 

However, we're not most magazines. As I looked over this interview, I found value throughout the conversation in each pocket. Maybe it's because I relate to a lot of the shared storyline that we have. Going to school and studying photography, both being impacted by our learning of film. Studying abroad in London and having our lives changed through that solitary time of growth, excitement, and independence. Thinking about life after college and how to keep up doing what you're most passionate about.

Just as timeless Kelia's photographs are timeless, I think this conversation is as well. Themes of identity, adolescence, love, the internet, travel, innocence - to name a few - are key parts throughout and I believe are elements that people will be able to connect with. 


I figured we could just start from the beginning. You’re from Colorado, what was it like to grow up there?

Well, I went to a pretty cool - I guess you would say creative - school, from Kindergarten to 8th grade. And then I went to a private Christian high school. They had a pretty good Arts program, including a photography class. So I said, “Oh, I’ll try this out” because I didn’t do very well at volleyball. I used to be into theater, singing and dancing, and I got cast as a man in every play so I said “You know what, I need to try something else.” I tried the photography elective. The teacher was crazy, but I really liked it. I did that all through high school. 

We went on trips to (places like) San Francisco and they spent a lot of money on the resources we had in that class. For example, we could make beautiful prints. 

SCAD (Savannah College of Arts and Design) came to my school and had a presentation. I thought to myself, “I don’t wanna live in Georgia,” it’s awkward. This was freshman year. And so I was like “OK, whatever” but I was really into SVA (School of Visual Arts) ‘cause I just wanted to be in New York. But I played around with (the idea of) all these different art schools and then SCAD ended up being the most financially affordable with scholarships and all that. Thank goodness for my school to have those materials to offer a portfolio review. 

So I went to SCAD, it was the best decision. Georgia isn’t that bad, Savannah especially is really beautiful. Now I’m about to graduate.

You’ve said it was a big change going from Catholic school to Savannah. What were some of the things there which changed your perspective?

At my high school, I would make images about relationships and they were like, “We can’t put this on the walls. This isn’t appropriate.” Like, really? OK.

Then I get to my first photo class in SCAD, ‘cause we have to take drawing and painting - really basic classes before we even start doing photography. But in my first photo class, there were nudes on the wall. And I was just like “What is gooood?” It was shocking for the first year, oh my gosh. Then I got desensitized to it and the whole discussion that would come up of the concept behind someone’s nude project - much more complex social issues than I was exposed to at my high school.

Realizing that there was such a bigger world of photography that existed and knowing that you could talk about it made me critique everything I had learned from high school.

But you were saying in high school you (personally) were still making work about relationships, right? 

Right, but it was much more toned down and romanticized. No nudity or darker meanings. Just personal, what I knew relationships to be. 

What initially drew you to that subject, though (about relationships)?

I don’t know, I’ve always been a hopeless romantic and lovesick child. I had a boyfriend when I was in kindergarten and its just been a theme throughout my life.

I find the most inspiration from that. It’s just what I draw from.

Besides getting more mature and diving into darker and deeper themes, how do you think your style has changed in that time?

Just having a more formal education in photography - I learned how to print in the darkroom and do all that. Understanding things like large format, which we had to shoot on. Getting down to the very technical aspects of photography. Once you learn all that, you can break the rules and figure out what you wanna do. 

And just becoming a woman at this age, living on your own. Relationships are so much different when you have your own house and someone else has their own house. Going out and drinking. I just go along with what’s happening and I take that and process it into what I want to photograph and remember. 

Nostalgia is a huge part (of my work) and I want to remember this part of my life. So many adults are like “Enjoy it while you have it. ‘Cause you’re gonna miss it the rest of your life.” And that is the most terrifying thing anyone has ever said to me.

In terms of specific images, how many are thought out beforehand compared to in-the-moment?

It depends. Some images are just snapshots and some I really spend a lot of time thinking about the symbolism. What’s gonna represent the concept I have for each image?

My still life’s are very thought out. 

And you shoot those on large format sometimes? Like “True Love Awaits”?

Yep, that was large format.

Recently my still life shots have just been 35mm snapshots. But with my portraits, I’ve been shooting a lot of medium format. That’s less conceptual. The guys I worked for in London, they combined documentary and fashion really well. So they always have some kind of storyline. I really admire that.

Did you go to London through school?

Well, I found the two guys and sent them an email like “Hi, I love you. Can I intern for you?” And they said, “Yeah, of course.” So I got that internship approved for credit towards my degree.

I actually did a semester abroad in London, early 2014.

Oh nice, I was there January 2015!

At least for me, even though it’s very similar to New York - it’s also very different. How did you see the city? What did it evoke in you?

I visited when I was in 8th grade. It was a school trip, so obviously it’s a much different experience. But I fell in love with the culture and the whole trip was really nice. The fashion scene and the art scene, I feel, is much more collaborative than America. I feel America is very cutthroat and competitive. 

Especially New York.

Oh, yeah. I’ve heard of people who graduate SCAD and they come here and don’t help each other out. I don’t like that at all. 

Just from what I’d seen from publications from London, I loved the fashion work. It was so much different from America’s really commercial look. I feel like they have really incorporated fine art into their fashion work in London. And then the photographers that I interned for, seeing their stuff and knowing that’s where I wanted to go with my work. That’s what brought me there.

But being there, as I’m sure you know - traveling and being alone in a city - holy cow. You learn to grow up

It’s such a maturing experience.

I came back and everyone was like, “Who are you?” I was a lot meaner and very independent. Just being alone and seeing the world.

What area were you staying in?

I lived in West London by Queen’s Park station and then I worked in Hackney / Hoxton. I love that whole area. 

You said people thought you changed. Did it change your photography at all?

I think I realized what direction I wanted to go with my work. I gained confidence in the vision I had. Instead of second-guessing the images I was making, I was just like, “I like this, I’m going to make an image about it.” Where as before, I thought to myself that I didn’t know if it was going to be good enough, if it’s original, if somebody’s gonna like it. But then I realized, I’m going to do this no matter what. 

Do you think that was through the work with the photographers or just growing up there?

I think just growing up. The work I was doing with them, I learned a lot of business skills. But their work is very different from mine - which I wanted it to be. If I was with a photographer who made work that looked like mine, it would just be strange. They even asked me, “Why did you want to work with us?” But I feel like you can take so many different things away. You can admire someone’s work even if it’s not something you would take. So just being on my own. I studied in France after that, too. Which was actually a really difficult time. But just those two abroad experiences, getting away from Savannah and all of my friends, and growing up.

Was France difficult because of the language barrier? 

That was hard. But it was through my school and a very small community of people in a medieval village. So you saw the same 30 people everyday and you couldn’t leave when you wanted to. Everything was planned for you. It felt like you were in summer camp. But I became friends with Taylor out there, so that was cool. I made good friends on that trip. It was just really hard.

And that was right after London?

Yep, and that’s also why it was difficult. Three months in London, three months in France. We’re on a quarter system at SCAD, so that’s how long the quarters are. 

But to go from being so independent and alone in London to being babysat in France was rough. 

So that was the end of junior year. Now leading up to finishing school in senior year, how has that felt? Is it weird being in your last year?

Yeah, but it’s also kind of reassuring because this past quarter I’ve been busier with outside work than I was with schoolwork. So that’s reassuring knowing that I can juggle a bunch of things at once and that I have people interested in publishing or having me shoot for them. 

School provides the opportunity to do whatever you want and figure yourself out but once you’re done with school, it’s like “Oh, you gotta do what everyone else says.” Unless you’re a fine artist, and if you succeed at that, good for you. But I feel like it’s less common. That’s my anxiety.

Obviously you like to travel. What are you thinking about for after school?

I would love to go back to London but that’s like the most expensive city in the world. But I do have a lot of contacts out there. I’ve considered California. I like New York a lot, but my heart isn’t here anymore - I’m not sure I could survive out here. 

So we’ll see. Wherever the wind takes me. I’m excited to see where I can end up. That’s the most exciting thing about this age, is not knowing where you’re gonna be. 

Would you prefer to do more freelance stuff, shooting for different places?

I would. If I could succeed off that, absolutely. But I’ve also considered working for a publication like Aint Bad or at a magazine and being a photo editor. Just so I can survive, and then doing my own shoots on the side. 

How has it felt to get recognition in places like i-D Magazine?

It’s really exciting for a day, and then it’s like “What’s next?” You know, what’s my next project or what’s my next big accomplishment. It feels really good, but then you just move on. When those things happen, I also have a lot more opportunities because more people see my work or are interested in it. So the exposure is helpful.

How role do you think the Internet and Instagram has played in spreading your work, and has it influenced how you do your work?

I don’t know. A lot of people are being such brats about Instagram, like “Everyone thinks they’re a photographer because they have Instagram.” Well, they are! A good image is a good image. It doesn’t matter who makes it. I don’t know why photographers are being so sassy about people with iPhones making really good photos. It’s so mean.

It’s more of a challenge to make work, but that’s a good thing.

Exactly! It makes your good image even stronger because there’s so many bad ones out there. 

People need to get over that. Obviously, if we see a good image, we’re struck by it. Doesn’t matter if we see a million bad ones.

And that’s what’s so cool about Instagram. I screenshot things all the time and add it to my little inspiration folder. I think it’s a good advance in creative fields. 

Totally.

And then Instagram added me as a Suggested User, which kind of ruined my life. I mean it’s great, great exposure. But for that time that I was on there, I was getting really inappropriate comments on self-portraits and other images. It was weird. You know, it’s like if someone made an Instagram account (at that time) that said “You should follow Kelia!” So there’s people with no images, no followers, who go through and say whatever they wanna say. But that’s over now, I think they’ve all died down too. I don’t think they exist anymore. So that (follower) number is like a ghost number. It was good exposure, though, and I got new opportunities from it. 

I noticed scrolling through your feed that, to me, there’s a distinct point where I kinda noticed you took it a lot more seriously. 

Oh yeah.

There’s a beginning stretch, then a small black-and-white period, then something clicked. Was there a moment for you where you thought to take it more seriously or was it more naturally through your work too?

Well, black-and-white (35mm) was my favorite class at SCAD. I learned so much about the medium and things like if it’s too underexposed you can’t print it. You have to figure out how to shoot a perfect exposure, how to print in the darkroom perfectly, how to do the burning and dodging. Before I just knew how to Photoshop, so being that technical and crafty with my work - I was like “Wow, I really love what I’m doing.” Thank God. (laughs) Once the black-and-white class was over, I was like “Oh, color - hey, what’s good?” As I got to take more classes where I was able to choose what I was shooting, that’s when color started being what spoke to me the most.

Your colors are very much distinctive and unique. Is there a certain way you go about it or look for stuff? Or is it just natural through your eye?

I just see things, and am like “That’s cute.” There’s not a formula to it. I’ll be about to take a photo and if the colors aren’t screaming at me, I don’t usually take the picture. 

Or I do, and I just keep it for myself. For a little coincidental moment. Street photography is so fun, ever since traveling and taking pictures of strangers walking on the street - it’s just so fun. But yeah, it’s just kind of what speaks to me. (laughs) That sounds so cheesy. 

As we've now discussed, you’ve done a lot of film stuff, from the black-and-white to large format to medium format. Across these different devices, how do you decide what you want to shoot with? And how does it affect the images?

If I could shoot everything in film, I would. Which I’ve started to. I do digital just in case, if the film processor breaks or something. But my favorite favorite favorite is medium format. I could live a life with medium format forever. I find that with film’s colors, you can’t manipulate digital into looking like film. Like VSCO is a really good program and it does it really well, but I just can’t find that color quality in digital images. So I choose to shoot film. Also, I’m much more thoughtful with film. Using digital, I could take a million of the same photo and hope that there’s a good one, but with film you’re like, “Ok, I only have so many frames to make - you have to be perfect with your exposure, every pose has to really be worthy of taking a picture.” Especially since film is so expensive. You have to make it work. 

I took film classes in school also but it almost felt like it was forced upon me. And I didn’t rebel against it, but it didn’t feel like I needed to shoot film at the time. But then after graduating, I’ve started doing a lot more stuff with flash. And I found that with film, just the way those cameras use flash, it’s a lot more natural and interesting. So this is the most recent one I’ve been using..

*holds up Contax T2*

Hell yeah, nice. 

*passes camera* It’s really fun to use. 

*Kelia almost drops camera*

What if I dropped it? You’d just be like “this interview is over! I hate you!” (laughs)

(laughs) Like if you turn this switch, it opens up.

This is so nice. I spent a helluva lotta money on an Olympus MJU2, very expensive and brand new... Doesn’t work anymore.

I got it on eBay and they were like “Oh no, we don’t take returns.”

Damn.

*pulls out another camera from bag* - I have this M7 for winter break. It’s not mine, it’s my school’s. But this is what I’ve been shooting with. It’s medium format, but it’s a rangefinder. Most medium format’s you know, you have to hold down (at waist level) and it’s like a viewfinder. But this you can. It’s such a nice camera, this is what I’m investing in. 

When you’re walking around, do you always have something on you?

I try to but I take a lot of photos on my iPhone. I was sitting through an interview that SCAD had with a few photographers that were in PDN’s Top 30 or something. They asked the same question about Instagram, like “How do you feel because it’s so saturated with images and photographers?” And he said he thought iPhones provide such a nice opportunity for when you see something you can instantly take a photo of it.

Like the quote “The best camera is the one you have on you.”

Exactly. It’s such an intuitive nature to pull out your phone and take a picture while a camera you can miss a moment. 

I just recently upgraded to the 6S and that’s changed my life. Holy cow, it’s so much better. I don’t know what world I was living in before. 

I still have to upgrade, I have the 5... (laughs)

You need to upgrade, it’s so so worth it. The camera’s insane. BUT, I think you should hold onto that. Because I think someday those lenses are going to have an aesthetic that people are gonna want again.

Yeah, that’s another interesting thing too. We’re looking back at film, especially with you being so interested in nostalgia in your work, and I agree that iPhones are definitely gonna have a whole look.

Oh, yeah. I kept every iPhone I ever owned. Just cause we’re gonna want that lens quality again or those colors that it produced. And that’s what I think is “trendy” about film right now. Like “oh, it looks like it’s from the ’70’s or whatever.”

I was talking with Kev about your work before arriving and he said that your photos feel like a different era almost. 

Kev chips in, “Yeah, I was saying your pictures are completely insane. They don’t even look like they’re from anywhere.”

That’s what I like. I don’t like going for any distinguishable time period.

There’s something contemporary in it but it also has the qualities of something from the 50’s. Yeah, I like that - thanks! I definitely go for it.

With that, how your style is in general - do you think that when you go to different places, it stays in a similar world in a sense?

Yeah, I guess I just have some kind of glasses I keep on where I see things - I don’t know how it happens.

That’s the best way.

I wish I had something better to say! It’s just how I see the world.

But they (she points to her friends who came with her), they hate me. We’ll be walking and then they turn around I’m like ten yards back. I’m like “Sorry, just one second.” They hate it, but they low-key love it though. I just slow us down a bit.

What kind of classes are you taking this year at SCAD?

So last quarter I was in a portrait class, just like a do-whatever-you-want class. And Film History II, which was my favorite class ever. And then this next quarter I’m taking Contemporary Issues In Photography, my senior do-whatever-you-want class. That’s not what it’s actually called. I’m taking an 18th century British caricature class. 

You’re drawing?

I don’t draw, I just study them. (laughs) I don’t know. It was the only open class that was available, but the professor had good reviews. 

Maybe it’ll influence my work, I just do caricatures for the rest of my life. I just fall in love with it. (laughs)

Does stuff like music or movies, or any type of other art, influence yourself?

Yeah, but I don’t think directly though. I enjoy movies and I like music but I don’t think “this song inspired this image” or “this movie inspired this image.” They just kind of go into my subconscious and educate me in what I like. Aesthetically and conceptually. But I don’t base it off of those things. 

Are there other photographers who particularly inspire you a lot?

Ever since taking Photo History II, I’ve learned about a lot of photographers that existed in the early ‘60s and ‘70s that I’m obsessed with. People I didn’t know about before because contemporary media is all about right now. Like William Eggleston is number one.

Classic color (film) photographer.

Yeah, I had to write a paper on him and I did not mind it. He’s a very old man but I fell in love with his soul.

And then street photographers like Alex Webb, Stephen Shore, Martin Parr.

More contemporary, I really like Jamie Hawkesworth. He does a lot of fashion work but he also does documentary. And he’s really cute, 30 years old. So… (laughs). He works in London. And the photographers I worked for, Hill and Aubrey. Who else? Harley Weir is really good. Viviane Sassen, Venetia Scott, Juergen Teller. I’ll stop there. I like those, very much. But they’re all over the place. If you put those images next to each other, you’d be like “What?”


TRACKING KELIA'S INFLUENCES

These images provide observations from us on delightful connections between images of Kelia and the photographers she look up to. Save for the Airplane re-creation of Eggleston, the rest are a mere coincidence that we thought would be fun to share together to show some hidden subconscious connections between her and her inspirations.

William Eggleston, 1972 (left) - Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2015 (right)

William Eggleston, 1972 (left) - Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2015 (right)

William Eggleston, Year Unknown (left) - Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2015 (right)

William Eggleston, Year Unknown (left) - Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2015 (right)

Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (left) recreating William Eggleston's famous Airplane shot "UNTITLED (GLASS IN AIRPLANE" 1965-74 (right)

Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (left) recreating William Eggleston's famous Airplane shot "UNTITLED (GLASS IN AIRPLANE" 1965-74 (right)

Jamie Hawkesworth, 2016 (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (right)

Jamie Hawkesworth, 2016 (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (right)

Stephen Shore, Ginger Shore, Causeway Inn, Tampa, Florida, 1977 (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2014 (right)

Stephen Shore, Ginger Shore, Causeway Inn, Tampa, Florida, 1977 (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2014 (right)

Juergen Teller, 2016 (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (right)

Juergen Teller, 2016 (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (right)

Venetia Scott, Year Unkown (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (right)

Venetia Scott, Year Unkown (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (right)

Harley Weir, 2016 (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (right)

Harley Weir, 2016 (left) and Kelia Anne MacCluskey, 2016 (right)


When you’re working with people, how much do you direct them?

I’m bossy. I’m so mean. You can ask Taylor. I think part of that is for fashion shoots, they’re just friends of mine, they’re not models. When I’m with models, they kill it - I don’t have to direct them ver much. But just using my friends or other students, it requires a lot more direction for poses or visual expressions and all that. It’s kind of fun doing that, getting people who don’t know what they’re doing and letting that awkwardness almost be a part of the photograph and the connection or communication that goes on between us. 

I shot this boy, I’ve had a crush on him for so long. He’s just a nice-looking boy. So I was like, “Hey, can I take your picture some time?” And he came over and I was so scared of him, he’s like a total punk anarchist. So I was scared to direct him at all, even just “can you move your chin a little?” All of the film is so uncomfortable and weird but that became my favorite part of that whole shoot. It was just so intimidating. But with my friends, I’ll make them wear ridiculous clothes or do whatever. 

Are there certain things you try to achieve with portraits in terms of how you want people to pose? 

It depends on the shoot. I just did a shoot of Taylor and this other kid where I really wanted to create this stylized character. Him in the red with the puppy. So I came up with these characters and when I directed them, it was like to portray that character. There’s a car dealership guy. So it depends, but I love awkward poses where things don’t always look flattering. 

A lot of ‘90s photographers used wide-angle lenses that made feet look really big or just very distorted, which I think is gonna come back. Straight photography is trending right now, just very symmetrical shapes and lines. So I think it’s cool, the more distorted and wide-angle and awkward looking. That’s what I picked up in Europe, that’s the trend out there. But in America right now, I think it’s very straight. There’s nothing wrong with it, just very trendy.

I feel like that’s something you see in i-D for instance.

Yeah. They’re one of my favorite publications for sure.

How did you get started with Aint Bad?

Carson and Taylor (a different Taylor), the guys who started it, work at SCAD. So I’ve been friends with them for a while. I approached them and was like, “Hey, I don’t know what I’m doing for Winter Break - if you need help, I’d love to join the team.” And they said, absolutely, so I started art directing some of their product shoots for the new issue and the artist monographs they recently released. So I just started out doing that and am now an editorial assistant. I’ll be contacting artists to do features on them and stuff like that. They’re good friends of mine, they’re really cool. 

Yeah, I originally found out about them through another interview we did for Ludique. I asked someone (Tyler Coray) who some of his favorite photographers were and he mentioned the Aint Bad team. That was the first time I heard of them, but then it was weird because the next week a friend of mine at school - who’s also a photographer - he started talking about them. I thought, “That name sounds familiar.” Then I went back and realized. Ever since I’ve been following them.

Oh, wow. They’ve grown a lot. It’s one of the best things to come out of Savannah. And it’s only going to get bigger. Their goal is to be a publishing company. Having the magazine as well as publishing monographs and hardcover books.

Which is good, because print is so nice to have.

A dream. The guys I worked for in London wouldn’t shoot for a publication unless it was print.

Maybe that’s why they were struggling to pay their rent sometimes. (laughs)

Yeah, I know right! (laughs). Can’t be that picky.

How do your parents feel about all this stuff with art?

My dad’s side of the family is very artistic. He’s a motion media graphics guy and also plays the drums. My mom’s a real estate appraiser, but has been really supportive - both of them. They’ve been so proud. And scared. But my dad was scared to even send me to art school because he’s an artist too and knows how hard it is to be an artist and make money. He says, “I want you to be successful and comfortable. It’s a scary world out there.” But they’ve been so supportive. Letting me come to New York for a weekend right now or going to London, all that. My dad is the one who always gives me artistic stuff for Christmas, like things that will help with my photography.

Going to a liberal arts school after Catholic school, what were their feelings with that?

I was the one who chose to go to that high school, it looked like a great opportunity. They were stoked on SCAD.

Do you have any siblings?

No, I’m an only child.

Outside of getting a job and trying to make a living out of it, do you have any other particular goals you want to try to achieve?

To continue doing what I’m doing. Keep making things.


2016 Follow Up: Thesis & Senior Year

CATCHING UP AFTER THE STORM PASSED

Since we hadn't talked with Kelia since last December, and had been discussing the rest of her senior year, we followed up with her over the summer to get her thoughts on how it went over the period with her thesis project Theory Of The Young-Girl and the remainder of school. 

Interlude Statement by Jack Sommer

Before we get into the follow-up questions about the series, I wanted to provide my own brief thoughts on the project. As someone who's seen more than his own fair share of senior thesis projects at my own school, it's definitely not always an easy task to accomplish and be successful. Of course, that's a subjective term - successful. But there are some projects that are clearly well thought out and formulated, while others are just haphazardly put together.

Theory Of The Young-Girl is one that definitely has cohesion to it. Watching it grow from the early stages to the end was a treat. It not only rounded out the series itself by it's completion, but was a moment of coming full circle for Kelia's work in general. It explored big topics that have been consistent in her work (ones we've discussed already here: innocence, adolescence, identity, just to name a group), however it also brought those themes to life in a new and more focused way.

Even down to the font and color palette of the book cover, her signature feeling of style is present throughout. While Kelia will obviously continue to explore new ideas, and her images will continue to change as a result of that, there is a confidence in her images that is stronger than ever.

How did your series Theory of the Young-Girl change as this last semester went on? 

The project was part of an independent study during my last quarter of school, so, naturally, it held a lot of importance. I had just taken a feminism and a critical theory class which both resulted in affecting Theory of the Young-Girl in many ways. I was more critical and thoughtful with each image and its relationship to the title. It took about ten weeks to even make the final selection.

What did it feel like to have the show?

The show was such an adrenaline rush. All the time and work that went into the project was hanging loud and proud on the walls. There’s nothing like seeing your prints 30x40 inches having their own presence in a room. 

You’ve put the book out now, too. What was the process like for making that in comparison to putting together the show?

Sequencing is the one of the most important parts of creating a book. I spent a long time on figuring out the perfect order. Luckily, I had my good friend Luca Venter do the layout and design.

What do each of those two presentation formats (book and show) mean to you? Do you value one more or the other?

The show was my fleeting moment of celebration. Like I said, the work had its own presence in a room. It was the moment my entire college career was building up to. The book exists as a little memory of it, a trophy of the hard work.

Besides the project, which I’m sure took up a lot of your time, how was your final semester? Was it what you expected? And how do you feel now that you’ve graduated?

I’m so heartbroken that school is over. I’m obsessed with learning and creating under the liberty of an experimental environment. I already miss the lifestyle that comes along with school, but I’m ready to move on and work on building a new life and pursuing a career.

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