Briefly describe the work you do.
I make photographs about themes or subjects that have had some sort of an impact in my life. My work ranges from depictions of depression to themes about Christian culture and even my documented travels. This all leads back to my personal narrative in some way. My primary medium is photography because ultimately I’m interested in telling visual stories about the things that are most important to me, and I find that using a camera is the most relatable and accessible way to do that.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born in Eastern Kentucky where I lived until I was 15 when my family moved overseas to Singapore. I lived there for 3 years until I moved to Chicago to study fine art at Judson University where I’ll graduate from this year. In the grand scheme of things, I am incredibly young, especially as an artist, but I’ve had some pretty unique experiences so far in my life. This has given me a pretty diverse portfolio, which I don’t really consider to be a weakness as some might.
Growing up, I heard my dad and my grandpa tell the same stories over and over. Even now I could probably tell you every one of them word for word, because I grew up absolutely loving any and all stories. No one else in my family is really an artist, but they’re certainly storytellers. I came to believe that my story, as well as everyone else’s, is worth telling. As long as my work reflects what is important to me, I’ll never tire of exploring different subjects and themes. This may sound a little self-centered, but everyone’s stories are interconnected. We all deal with many of the same things, and I think this is why people are drawn to certain universal themes. Aside from my work, I want to live deeply and honestly in whatever situation I’m in, but I want that to just naturally carry over into my work.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
When I think of a stereotypical “artist studio”, I think of a dark basement absolutely covered with papers and paint strewn all over the place. There’s probably old rags creating mold in a corner and a “do not disturb” sign on the door. Thankfully, my studio routines look nothing like this! I share space at my university with several other artists, and I absolutely love getting to work with them. We get to share ideas and help critique each other when needed, and I think this kind of studio culture creates a sort of family that’s really unique. My routine differs depending on what stage of a project I’m in, but I always feel like I spend too much time on a computer either researching or editing. However, as much as I love working in community with other artists, I think my happy place is definitely when I’m behind my camera in a photo studio, even if it’s in a dark basement!
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I’m still very much working on finding my voice as an artist. What I’ve continually had to learn and relearn throughout my projects is that making art takes a lot of courage. It takes guts to be truly honest with both myself and the viewer, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever really master that. But I think I have a really unique opportunity as an artist to use a medium that is so accessible for so many. Just by nature of the medium, photography holds a lot of power and therefore responsibility as well.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
This changes so much for me. Sometimes, I make work every day, and sometimes, I have weeks where I just feel like I’m stuck or unable to make work until I resolve something. I guess my routines are rarely consistent.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I’ve really only been making work for about five years, so my work has changed drastically since then. I think the biggest change is that now I want to make work that actually means something to me rather than blindly shooting whatever I can, so basically there’s more thought process in my work now. As much as I love experimenting just for fun, I’m not striving to make things simply to ‘wow’ my friends anymore.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
I find so much inspiration from photojournalism and travel writers, and I’m sure I’ll never tire of looking at the work of people like Carolyn Drake, Cig Harvey, Alec Soth, Anna Gaskell, William Eggleston, Lalla Essaydi, and Sally Mann, to name a few.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I have absolutely no musical ability, but I think it’d be so fun to be in a band and just tour for a living. If I could choose, I’d definitely play the bass.
Meredith Kennedy is currently a university student at Judson University near Chicago majoring in Fine Art/ Photography with a minor in Graphic Design. She graduates in May and is planning on working towards getting a teaching certificate to teach high school art. She loves exploring new places and cultures almost more than she loves hearing the stories of those she has met along the way.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.