The team over at the newly-launched Awake Platform posted this interview with surreal photographer and Vanguard Professional Kindra Nikole to find out more about her motivations as an artist. You can click here to see the original post.
It is very unusual to see pictures of you in urban areas. One of the things that really stands in your photos is the beauty that nature has. Is nature inspiration to you? And how does this affect the selection of the location?
Nature is my life. Because I’m more or less required to reside in urban settings to make a living and provide for myself, I avoid using it in my photography, as photography is my escape *out* of the real world. I like to create images that communicate what is important to me and also what awes me, and nothing fascinates me as much as nature. I’m always on the lookout for new settings, and because I do a fair amount of hiking and exploring AND I live in a beautiful place with abundant nature, I’m often able to find the locations I desire for various shots.
What’s the strangest thing that happened to you while you were doing one of your pictures?
Hmmm, that’s a really tough question! I think rather than trying to recall the strangest thing, I’ll talk about how I tend to accidentally torture my models… By making them stand in freezing cold water until they can’t feel their legs… Or by making them lie in position until they can’t feel the left side of their body… Or by having them model in thin clothing in the snow… Haha, oh gosh, I sound like a monster! But yes, a lot of my photos require the models to be supremely tough and understand that there will be some discomfort for a while to get a photo that will last forever. I always let them know what they’re getting themselves into before I have them shoot with me!
It’s normal to see in your photos butterflies, fire, smoke and objects related to medieval times. Why?
Fire and smoke I love using because they are both so versatile and also unpredictable. Each time you capture a shot of fire or smoke, the image is different, as they are always dancing and moving within the frame. The fire also creates very interesting lighting scenarios, and, let’s be honest: it’s fun to play with. However, that is NOT to say I encourage that other people mess with fire for art unless they are knowledgeable about preventative measures and are always fully prepared for emergency situations!
As for butterflies, I find them to be both beautiful and awe-inspiring in their delicacy and fragility. But what really astounds me about butterflies is their transformative qualities. That something so small and seemingly insignificant can completely morph into such a graceful and beautiful creature—it never ceases to amaze me.
Finally, in terms of weaponry and medieval themes, that is simply because I find that era so inspiring, and much of the fantasy I grew up reading was set in those times. A lot of the mythos I find interesting was made popular during those times as well, so that lends to my penchant for visiting those themes.
Your series “Dreamscapes” has revealed another side. Richest in detail and with an incredible beauty. These pictures really stand out in your gallery. What led you to create such a different series?
The recent loss of my mother has left me with much grief, and so I wanted to start a new project that would challenge and engage me fully while honoring her and visiting themes that she felt passionate about. It rapidly has become a means of coping and healing during such a troubling time in my life. Because many of the props in the images are handcrafted, it adds yet another layer to my photography, challenging me to try new things and really push myself to the limit. It also allows me to create an entirely new world, unlike I’ve ever created before. I was hugely inspired by Kirsty Mitchell’s Wonderland series, which gave rise to the idea of Dreamscapes.
Why aren’t these pictures self-portraits?
I wanted to use models for these images, as I really want them to feel ethereal and have the models embody these otherworldly beings that are characters within the story and realm of Dreamscapes. I really wanted to be removed from the images so that not only will there not be a recognizable person in them (since many of my followers readily recognize me in my images these days), and so that I could be in full control of the shot. This way, rather than me having to worry about embodying a character, I can simply direct the model, focusing on composition, her expression, and movement, etc. Plus, I am looking for very specific features and looks for the various characters of Dreamscapes, and this allows for endless possibilities!
What are your biggest sources of inspiration in photography?
It’s hard to list out my inspirations, but I’ll rattle off a handful: nature, fantasy, films such as Dark Crystal, Legend, Labyrinth, Bladerunner, anything by Hayao Miyazaki, Jim Henson, Brian Froud, Kirsty Mitchell, authors such as Roald Dahl, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Madeleine L’Engle, ambient music artists such as Aphex Twin and Tycho, video games such as Final Fantasy 9, Chrono Trigger, and Lost Odyssey… Really, I draw inspiration from *so* many things around me, which really helps fuel my creative drive. Typically I like my images to breathe life into dark fantasy settings, so much of what inspires me touch on those types of themes.
What other areas inspire you? Can you choose 5 artists?
I think I mostly touched on this in the last question, but yeah! Jim Henson, Brian Froud, Kirsty Mitchell, Hayao Miyazaki, and Dr. Seuss. Gosh, and sooo many more. There is just so much talent out there!
You have participated in meetings with other photographers. It is important to make contact with other people that have the same passion?
Oh, absolutely. Truth be told, I’m incredibly introverted and get major social anxiety, so getting out of my shell and meeting new people is often very challenging for me, but I never regret it when I do. Meeting other artists and collaborating or discussing a passion for art is so motivating and encouraging—I draw so much inspiration from my fellow artists and friends, and it opens your mind up as well. So very important as an artist to be ever evolving and flexible, and spending time with other artists, I feel, really encourages that.
It’s possible to notice your evolution since May/2012. Why do you think that has happened?
May 2012 is when I began my 365 project, where my goal was to photograph something every day for a year. It took me closer to a year and a half to finish it, but the growth during that time was huge, and that’s because of the sheer volume of hours and focus I poured into my craft. You can have all of the inspiration and drive in the world, but without putting it into practice, *constantly*, you won’t grow a ton, in my experience. Constantly challenging myself to try new things and repeatedly pick myself back up after failures really propelled me forward as an artist. Failing is just as important as succeeding, so long as you learn from those “failures.” I am grateful for many of the photos I’ve created that I cringe to look at now, because I am able to recognize what I learned from them.
When you are awake, what do you dream of?
I dream of collaborating with lots of artists I look up to, creating new worlds through imagery, and bringing fantasy to a whole new level with photography. I want to travel the world and see as much as I can see, and I want more than anything to create art that people can relate to and escape into as well. It has been so therapeutic for me, and I hope it can be that for others as well.
Thank you Kindra!