I have been thinking for some time about adding interviews to GG, however there are already so many blogs doing this well, I was a bit unsure what else I could bring to the process. But recently, I started thinking about all of the people who have become a part of my life lately. Not only are many of them smart, interesting and talented, but they have also been an incredible support in my photographic journey. Through GG, I have met some fantastic people, who have proved themselves to generous and inspiring.
The art world is full of insecurity, so it is not surprising that people often struggle to extend themselves. Especially when you are not secure in your career, it can be even harder to take time out to help someone else. But one of the great growth experiences in life, is when you detach from envy. Neurosis seems to go hand in hand with creative process to some extent, but that does not mean you have to give in to it. I will admit that I still struggle to be secure enough to never let this stuff bother me. I would love to say I am past it, but much of my life has been about learning to overcome the trap of comparison. I am sure a huge part of why WIPNYC is so satisfying for me, it is an opportunity to experience being a positive force. So I wanted to start a feature in my blog where I get to thank and give kudos to those who have given to me. Every few weeks I will post a new “Person of the Week.” The idea is to let the rest of the world get to know that there are people out there, even in the art world, who are forces of good!
Some time ago I received an email from a lovely lady, telling me how much she liked my blog and work, with a super generous offer to help me. She probably had no idea how how much it meant to me, but she and I kept in touch online. And when the time was right, she came true on her promise and I have been fortunate to get find out what a cool chick she is in the flesh. So for my first “Person of the Week,” I wanted to thank her. She works in the most challenging of all segments of photography, fashion. There is a very short list of successful female fashion photogs, and it requires a great deal of grit and determination to deal with that industry, and she has it. More importantly she has a unique style which turns the yielding, sexual object model cliche on its head. If all women working the fashion industry were to take a cue from her, perhaps young girls would finally have some better role models. Fashion used to be about fun and fantasy, unfortunately now, more often than not, that fantasy gets held up as the reality we should all aspire to. So for reaching out to a fellow female photographer, and for making challenging work in a field which discourages it, Kristiina Wilson is my Person of the Week.
1. So, you work in probably the most competitive of all the photo world sphere’s, Fashion, how do you keep your feet (and head) on the ground?
Well, what I do isn’t rocket science or saving lives or anything that I feel is something to get too stressed out about. I LOVE my job — I work 12 hour days every day and couldn’t do that if I didn’t love it — but I rarely get stressed out or upset about anything. It just seems silly to. I also feel like true competition only makes you stronger as an artist, pushes you to further your craft — and everything else about who gets this job or that job — is just noise. As long as my team and I are happy and able to make the images we want, I don’t see where my feet and head would go!
2. Have you ever felt that being female had any affect or impact on your career? I.E., your pay scale, job choices etc?
That is hard for me to say with real authority. I only have the experience of being Kristiina Wilson, female photographer — I have never tried being Chris Wilson, dude. I have thought about masquerading as that guy, online, to see what would happen in terms of workflow, etc — but in the end I always decide it would be a sad waste of time and I want to be myself. I have heard a few times from prospective clients that women can’t shoot fashion as well as men because we aren’t as “technical,” or we can’t view women through a lens of sexuality (barf) or because we just aren’t strong enough to lift all the equipment. When I have lost jobs to men for clients like that I just chalk it up to ignorance and realize that those types of clients are not people I would want to work with anyway. But I invite them to come to the studio and have Tech Talk or join me in a workout with my trainer, who kicks my butt with painful regularity. I would also advise them that fashion doesn’t always have to be about T&A, and that many of the gay men shooting fashion probably aren’t attracted to the female models either. But you know, people are going to have their own silly preconceived notions and we just have to work around them. It is what it is.
3. Why do you think you are comfortable being reaching out and helping other people? Do you think it is because you are confident in your own career, or just how you are as a person?
Beats me! I guess I have just always been that way. It’s not like I’m Mrs. Connected Fancypants or anything at all, but if I see someone whose work I like and I feel like I know someone that could help them out, why not? I am definitely not threatened by other photographers and I wish that we could all be more friendly towards each other instead of having this weird competitive vibe, especially in fashion. I have tried reaching out with other fashion people but that has bit me in the butt a few times — I have about 2 good friends that are fashion photogs and both are men — what does that tell you? My feeling is if we are all good we’ll all get there so let’s just chill out and enjoying sharing ideas or what have you.
4. Tell us a little about your work, you have mentioned to me you like your models to look “angry” and have specific emotions. Is this how you contend with the traditional of the yielding female in fashion?
I like the women in my images to look strong, healthy and tough. I especially love it if they look scary and weird. I am definitely not into wilting, sorry looking blank hangers for clothing. My team is now familiar with me cooing over photos during the end of shoot image review that are especially “evil” looking. I also love those off moments in between poses where the model is looking off camera or doing something non-modeling related — the poor models are often slightly horrified when I put those in the story. I’m not too excited about traditional posing, but I don’t know too many current fashion photographers that are.
5. On a side note, I know you are half Finnish, I was watching a Norwegian cooking show, which mentioned that the Swedes and the Norwegians eat tons of Rutabaga, tell me, do the Finns also eat it as well? (Kristiina’s husband, Harri Kallio, is also a very talented photographer)
Finnish people basically eat the same junk as everyone else, plus more beets. I hate beets. Yech. Finland now features US chains such as Subway, Olive Garden (WTF?), McDonalds, etc — so Harri and I can travel to Finland and never experience anything new, much like tourists in Times Square. I’m sure an Applebees can’t be far behind.
That said, yes, Finns do eat rutabagas. Plus amazing wild strawberries and blueberries that grow all over the place in summer. And chanterelle mushrooms in every forest! Those are my favorite and they grow on Harri’s parents’ island, so we just go out with a bucket every day and collect them for free. They are like $40/liter at the grocery here in NYC.
6. Let’s get a little more personal, if you were a vegetable, what would you be? Who would your vegetable friends be? Vegetable enemies?
Oh my. I don’t know. I am a vegetarian so I think all my friends are vegetables. Well, except beets. I HATE beets. Once I went to a dinner and the hostess knew I was a vegetarian so she made the whole dinner out of beets and I had to eat it all and it was AWFUL. I was very very sad. I guess she thought vegetarians only eat beets.
7. You seem to have a very balanced life for an artist, how to manage to combine quality of life with the stress of freelance and the photo industry?
Like I said, I am just the type of person who doesn’t really get stressed out easily — I have a high tolerance for crap. I just laugh at stuff — I think I get my temperament from my father, who runs a big environmental consulting company but really enjoys patting dogs and swimming in the pool. Of course, my threshold can be crossed, but it doesn’t happen a lot.
I think it’s important to have a nice working environment – we are lucky to have an amazing studio/condo setup and a nice yard to chill out in, so I can always wander around and take a few minutes to relax. Harri and I also make a point of taking walks around the neighborhood a few times a day to get a break. We have 2 ducks and 3 baby chickens and about 5 regular chickens on our block (yes, on 5th and D), so it’s nice to go say hi to them and pat dogs and also hang out with our 4 cats. I love animals and hanging out with animals always relaxes me. I think Harri and I also really check each others’ potential work craziness. It’s good that we are both in different parts of the photo industry so we can help each other out and also point out when we are each being silly and say it’s time for a break, etc.
8. You recently switched to digital, how has it effected your work or has it?
It has. I fought the digital thing for so long, I railed against it, I was all — “I’m never going to switch to digital — it is horrible!” — and then I did. My clients wanted InstantArt, and once there was a camera that I felt treated light as well (frankly better) as film, and had a full frame chip — I was in. I bought 2 Canon D1 Mark IIIs and that is it. I love them and I shoot now more than ever — because for me, shooting is now free (well, the “film” part is). So I can faff around and my team and I can play. It was much harder to do that with film, I had to budget when I could do an experimental shoot, etc. The Canons paid themselves back in a month and that was that. My only complaint is that the quality is so good it makes beauty retouching a giant pain — too much detail! ;)
9. What is your favorite place in the world?
Finland, on the frozen sea in the winter. Or in the summer, on the summerhouse dock looking out at the lack.
Alternately, the Hana-Hotel in Maui. That place is amazing.
10. Who has been the most supportive person in your life, or what is a time that someone really helped you out in your photo odyssey?
My parents have been amazingly supportive. My mom has been telling me I should do fashion since I started photography in high school, but I didn’t listen to her until a few years ago. Dumb! Mom knows best. I always show my new work to my parents right away and really appreciate their critiques — they have many smart things to say, and my mom has VERY strong and well versed opinions about clothing. And as the shoots get weirder, my parents are not at all disturbed or shocked — in fact, they don’t really seem to notice. I guess since they lived through my mega-goth phase they really aren’t surprised.
Harri has of course also been super supportive. We have different visual styles in many ways, as well as different ideas about how to approach shooting, but it’s always good to get his viewpoint. He has also built me a ton of really cool equipment and gear in his metal shop — he made me a light that we named Randy, and Randy has lots of different crazy accessories and things all designed and crafted by Harri. Harri is also a great assistant and driver and has been named the one dude allowed in our team by our stylist. ;)