SHIFT Feature Photographer K.J.S.
Shift PUBLICATION'S FEATURE PHOTOGRAPHER,
Kourtney Jackson Smith.
Can you tell us about the feature shoot? How did this come to life visually?
The concept for the shoot developed after the theme for the first issue of Shift, the contrasting ideas of being asleep/awake. I wanted the shoot to have the push-and-pull of being a bit dreamy but also grounded to reflect the theme. I arrived at using translucent material as a sort of veil between reality and a dream-state and wanted to explore the possibilities between them. It was a lot of fun to be able to play and experiment a bit.
What were your creative filters when planning on pulling this vision to life?
I guess I considered how to tell a story with a feeling as opposed to a distinct narrative. I thought a bit about dynamics as a way to push the theme further - when I captured an image I liked, I set out to shoot the opposite moment as well. Clarity vs. obscured, distant vs. closeup, rightside up vs. upside down, on the periphery vs. central in the frame, etc. I wanted the theme to resonate alongside these other dualities.
Were the time of day, environment, and location relevant when planning the headlining shoot? If so, how?
Yep! We essentially shot right before sunset. I wanted the magic of early evening light, not only visually for how it contributes to the dreaminess but also because it's the transitionary time of day that connects day to night... furthering those asleep/awake ideas. I wanted the blue sky and natural hill scape to provide a horizon line that I could mess with and use to throw off spacial reasoning and push into the surreal a bit.
How do you decide on set which images to capture in color vs black and white?
When shooting, I mostly pay attention to what I want to highlight in the image and which best captures that quality. Since I shoot with film, I always have a camera ready with color and one with black and white so I have flexibility to move between them. Black and white is much quieter, it pretty much limits your attention to contrast and form. Color can be powerful and is especially great to draw attention to light quality. Both are great for setting a tone.
I try to use color thoughtfully because it's easy for it to lose it's meaning when overdone. I think the withholding and limitations of black & white are great strengths. It can really ground a story and draw out the nuance of the color images it's presented with. I think a lot about cadence between the two.
The models you featured were quite striking - are there any narratives behind them? Individually? Together?
I'd been wanting to work with Grace for a while. I think she looks like a Botticelli painting and her natural hair texture is other-worldly. Grace and Arturo both have unique, striking features and a timelessness about them. I find that much more interesting than commercial-looking models.
"I arrived at using translucent material as a sort of veil between reality and a dream-state and wanted to explore the possibilities between them."
Thoughts behind the wardrobe selection?
I wanted to steer away from expected silhouettes and textures while at the same time avoid drawing too much attention to the garments themselves. I shoot a lot of fashion imagery, so I was excited for this to be more about the scene and subjects (and hopefully the ideas) rather than selling clothes..
How did you interpret each still-life section and choose the still life items that you wanted to capture for each? Was there meaning behind them?
I found a list online of the most common things people dream about and I found it really interesting. I essentially set out to capture a few of those with a similar veiling/revealing strategy as the other shoot. I just love that dreaming of things like receiving awards, being naked, the beauty of nature and even just food are universal human experiences, I think that's fascinating and says a lot about what it means to be human.
...Final thoughts, KOURT?