The Photographer Interviews: Kassia J

Posted by Michele Hamparian

Jun 30th 2021

What drew you to photography?

Unfortunately the thing that initially got me to photography, was really the fact that I was running from it. My own insecurities, my own discomfort with being on the other side of the lens... being "the photographer" within my family allowed me to use the camera as a comfort and a shield.

My fascination with portrait photography specifically was born in part out of my own initial hatred of being photographed (and the desire to challenge those feelings and my own self perceptions of beauty), and the slow realization of the lack of diversity seen within the photography field - with skinny, heterosexual, white couples and individuals seeming to dominate my Instagram feed and photographer's portfolios. My passion for photography exists in capturing the human spectrum - documenting all loves, all bodies, all backgrounds. I strive to capture both myself in my chubby body, and everyone else in their own bodies, just as they are - beautiful.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I look for inspiration anywhere and everywhere. From other photographers, from music, from film, from nature, and the world around me. I think creativity is like a muscle, and the more you use it the stronger it becomes. I've noticed as I've gone along my photographer journey that my ideas and concepts come to far more easily and readily - creativity being a skill that has to be practiced.

What type of cameras and lenses do you use?

I shoot with a Nikon D750, and my 50mm lens rarely leaves my side. It's light, compact, and just a really nice focal length (in my opinion).

Are there any projects you are especially proud of?

I have an ongoing project called 'Kulturelle'. Kulturelle, the German word for cultural, is a project looking to represent Canadian multiculturality through capturing Canadian people in traditional culture dress and regalia. I think it is so important to see the beauty in culture, in our history, and in who we are.

Settler colony nations like Canada, the United States, and Australia are the product of so many nation's peoples - and while there is a lot of ugliness that accompanies the diversity of these nations - it's the beauty that I think does, and should, shine over it all.

How did you get into photography?

I initially got into wildlife photography, as I have long been obsessed with wildlife all of kinds. It was only in the past few years, that in an attempt to capture my loved ones and get over my own personal discomfort with photography, that I realized how much I love and value portrait photography as an art.

What's your favorite image you've captured?

I honestly don't know if I could pick one favourite - but this would be one of them. Sunshine (pronouns they/them) and Brooke (pronouns she/her) met up with me at the Sutro Baths in San Francisco California for a partial golden-hour / partial post-sunset session by the water. I bought these two lanterns on a bit of whim, hoping to capture something magical, and I am just so in love with it.

What subject draws you to take a photo of it?

Lighting is definitely a huge draw to a subject, but for me the biggest is individuality. I love capturing personality, diversity, and the general human experience and existence. I like things that are different or unique. I like intimacy and the personal. I love things for what makes them stand out.

Can you share some tips on how you shoot your images?

I am a chronic overshooter - always wanted to capture a little of everything. I also underexpose almost always, wanting to preserve the highlights in the sky.

What's the secret! Are there specific types of equipment for these kinds of photos?

If you're hoping for a secret, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But I honestly don't think there is one - in the same way that I don't think you can go wrong shooting with a Nikon, Canon, Sony, or any other body. While I absolutely recommend investing in a full frame camera when you can (as opposed to a crop), at the end of the day the camera is just the tool. Practice - shooting, editing, composing, flexing your creative muscle. That's really what will help you improve.

What has been your biggest challenge in pursuing a career in photography?

I think a big struggle for me is that I'm an introvert by nature. While I definitely might be the loudest introvert you've ever met, I am still very introverted to my core. This becomes a challenge for me when it comes to self-promotion, centering myself on my own page, and letting go of that ever-so-slight insecure side that never can shake the nerves before a photography session.

What advice would you give to someone starting a career in photography?

Figure out what makes you passionate about photography. What do you love, what brings you joy, what do you want to share with the world. It's easy to get wrapped up in the trends and desires of the photography world - but being your perfectly unique self is exactly what will make you stand out and succeed.

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