Interview With Photographer Kristen Wrzesniewski
I’ve been following Kristen’s work for a while and we’ve stayed in touch online for a couple years now. She’s been doing some really cool stuff recently so I wanted to share her work with you guys and what she had to say about it.
Ok, so give me the basics….where are you, how old, full name etc
My full name is Kristen Wrzesniewski, I am 24 and I live in Austin Texas. But I grew up in South Texas.
Did you go to school for photography or are you self taught or a combination?
I’ve never gone to school for photography..although I did take one darkroom class my freshman year of college. Otherwise I’m completely self-taught.
Do you remember your first camera?
Yes! A canon rebel. Film. I loved that camera.
I was trying to think of a few words to describe your style, and “fashion” kind of popped up, but I see a lot more honesty in your work than straight fashion photography…what kind of photographer do you consider yourself?
Yeah…I wouldn’t say I’m a fashion photographer. Sometimes. I don’t know, it’s hard describing your own work. Sensual, maybe. A friend has described it as simply ‘fine art photography’ …haha, but I don’t know really. I usually just say I do portraiture.
I understand completely. It seems like it would be easy to describe this thing we are so married to, but my mind goes totally blank when people ask me. How did you get started working with people? You were a model once as well, right?
Noo, never been a model. Though I used to take pictures of my self. I saw a friend was doing some modeling work, and it looked interesting to me…so I made a model mayhem account and started contacting models. I had been doing other forms of photography for years before that, so shooting people was a whole new world to me.
Were there any hurdles for you while you were shifting over?
Yeah, definitely. Directing models was very foreign to me..and just basic stuff, like how to frame a shot with a person in it. Also I was kind of shy, so it was really weird at first.
Directing is the hard part for me. Chuck Close said that just about anyone can take a picture, but developing the voice is the hardest part. For us that’s directing, I think. How’d you get over it?
I guess I just started to develop confidence…and after shooting with a person a couple times you feel a lot more comfortable with them so it’s no big deal after a while. Now it’s like second-nature to me. I think I also have a great advantage being a female. Female models definitely warm up to another female much faster than a male photographer. Sorry, Chris! (laughs)
No I think you’re right. You’ve got the upper hand there. And your subjects are mostly women. I’m going to ask you the obnoxious question everyone asks me…why don’t you shoot men?
I’d like to shoot more men! And I have shot one or two. But most models in the industry are women…I was actually approached by a male model the other day, so I think we are going to shoot soon. It’s also just different. Men can’t pull off sensuality like women can.
I have that problem as well…its def my weak point…making men seem as sensual without being sexually aggressive. It’s not an easy path.
Yeah, and I’ve shot with one dude who I think was just trying too hard. The pictures are kind of funny.
You spoke about models warming up to you…I think that’s one of the best things about your images is that you seem to have relationships with your subjects…It’s like you’ve been friends for years.
Yeah..thanks! I like that. And some of the models actually are my good friends, but I don’t think you can tell much of a difference. I want my photos to seem intimate..like we’re not on a ‘photo-shoot’ but rather hanging out and I just so happened to snap an awesome picture. I think your work has that quality, too.
You’re kind to say that. Lately I’ve been really interested in more honesty and less posing…sometimes I’ve found working with pro models it’s difficult to break them out of that mindset.
I agree. Models who have been shooting for years have their ‘go-to’ poses and sometimes you have to stop and take a step-back and try and redirect them. It’s sometimes difficult for them but a good model can do anything. I think I also shoot them differently than how they are used to…I often find myself in really weird and strange positions while I’m shooting. So much so I probably look ridiculous.
But I think that’s good because they can relax more. It’s like ‘don’t worry..no matter how ridiculous you think you look in that position, look at me!’
I’ve been there, for sure. I think for the first few years I just stumbled my way through it.
Shooting is always fun. If it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be fun or the model and I aren’t vibing, I just cut it short and scratch it. Not worth the time.
Have you done any assisting or worked with other photographers?
Hmm, not really. I recently assisted a friend, Darla Teagarden, on a shoot. She does very different work than mine, so it was cool to see her do her thing. But otherwise..not really.
Who would you say your major influences are?
Ohh that one is so tough! Let me think…I mean, I definitely love Ellen Von Unwerth.
Ellen Von Unwerth. Totally love her.
Yeah she’s great. Talk about sensuality! And Eggleston…I don’t know really..I admire a lot of my friends who are photographers, too. I draw my inspiration from a lot of music actually. Nothing like listening to some good lyrics to get you pumped up to shoot.
Nerd Gear Question: What’s your go-to set-up?
Oh boy it just depends. I’m a serious minimalist when it comes to gear and stuff. Never use studio light, maybe a flash unit if I need it. My main camera is a Nikon D80 with a 18-200mm lens..the body is so old and outdated but it still works for me. I also have a Canon AE1 program that I shoot with and my polaroid land camera which I am in love with… I love that land camera. I mean it’s from the 60’s! That’s so long ago! (laughs)
You keep a really beautiful Tumblr and I wanted to get your thoughts on where digital photography is right now in relation to the internet, sharing, instagram, etc.
Thanks! That’s an interesting question. I think it’s definitely changing a lot. And I see these young kids (16,17 year olds) with their Mark II’s overphotoshopping their images and I want to be like ‘stop!’ I’d be happy if everyone took a step back and just learned the basics..took it easy. I think there is too much information regarding photography now. Back in the day if you wanted to learn photography you got a 35mm camera and shot black and white film. Plain and simple. I think people are forgetting the basics! Skipping over the important parts of the learning process. Like this whole HDR crap…not into it. Sure it’s cool for some things but it’s just not my thing. I think it’s too much.
I couldn’t agree more. I think “Polaroids” have been ruined forever for me by Urban Outfitters and Hipstamatic.
Ugh. I know. I was actually really weary of shooting polaroids because it seemed like such a huge trend but then I got the camera and fell in love with it. I think we just have to try and ignore that crap and keep on doing what we love to do. There will be a lot of fakers along the way but fuck it. The people who know and love real photography will recognize the difference. It’s just annoying to me how important it is to people what kind of camera you shoot with. it’s like dudes comparing their dick size. (Laughs)
It is, for sure. I read this story about Karl Lagerfield showing up to a shoot with a 110 camera and cube flashes and how the art director went apeshit but he pulled it off because he’s a bad ass. Are there any projects you’re working on you’d like us to know about?
I have ideas for a few photo-series but nothing for sure yet. I’m really bad at submitting to magazines but I just submitted these great photos of my friend Kara to fixationmag…so those will be out next month I think.
Ok, so tell us how to get in touch with you and see your work…tumblr, twitter, pony express…
Got it! Ok, I know you’ve got to jet so…any last thoughts? where would you like to be in 5 years?
I’m not sure really..making money doing photography certainly isn’t my number one goal. But it makes me happy, so I’d still like to be shooting, and learning. Maybe teaching workshops..that seems pretty cool. I like to teach people. Or if I could teach photography to kids that’d make me really happy.
So, last words for kids picking up a camera for the first time?
Don’t be afraid to experiment. The only way to get better is to practice and continuously shoot…don’t try and model your work after other photographers too much – just do your own thing and your voice will surface eventually.
(Update: Kristen’s tumblr is about to hit 1000 followers and once that happens she’s doing a giveaway. Be sure to check it out!)