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Photo @dolescent member crush: Kayla Smith

Nov. 2, 2018
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This is a new weekly series where we feature our incredibly talented Adolescent members and their work! Sign up here to join the Adolescent Membership and be part of the @ family!

This week's Adolescent Member Crush is Kayla Smith! Kayla is a photographer based in New Jersey and New York City who works primarily with instant film. We love knowing that each photograph she takes has physically captured a moment in time-- that both subject and photographer were extremely present in that moment. Check out her work on her Instagram and website.

@DOLESCENT: When did you start getting into photography?

KAYLA SMITH: During my childhood, I had an incredible babysitter named Mary. She watched me grow up from the time I was a newborn until middle school. She watched me and my older brother every Tuesday and Thursday and would typically bring her film camera. Mary documented everything, from portraits of us to our surroundings. She compiled all of the photographs she took of my life into 8 books that she gave to me at the end of her tenure as my caretaker. I was always curious about her camera and photography. I saw the way she framed the world and the love she put into it. It inspired me to pick up photography and I would use my parents point and shoot or disposable cameras throughout my adolescence to capture my own images. I received my first camera, a canon SLR, from my parents for my 18th birthday. 

@: How did you learn how to do what you do?

KS: When I received that first Canon SLR, I would have casual little photoshoots with my friends. I fell in love with the experience of having a shoot and trying to capture certain aspects from people. From there, I studied art and photography at Drew University, where I started to experiment with 35mm and Polaroid photography, delving deeper into my subject matter and figuring out why I was attracted to portraiture so much. 

@: Where do you draw inspiration from?

KS: I’m very reactive to the environment around me. I draw daily inspiration from my relationships, emotions, memories, and surroundings. I’m also inspired everyday by the work my friends are making in the community. Collier Schorr, Nan Goldin, Maripol, Carrie Mae Weems, Deana Lawson, and Diane Arbus are some of my favorite photographers. 

@: What is usually your subject matter? What do you think is important in your work?

KS: I am fascinated by people and how facial expressions/body language can convey a facet of someone’s identity or emotional state. I use instant photography to explore my fascination. I want to express what is true and real in the moment. With my Polaroids, you get what you see. There is no editing. Once the image is captured and printed out, I cannot idealize it with photoshop. They are tangible objects that exist in the same physical space as we do. It is important to me that I remain true to my subjects in my work.

@: If I could have any piece of equipment it would be…

KS: An unlimited supply of Polaroid Originals Spectra Film.

@: Favorite movie/TV show right now?

KS: The last movie I saw in theaters that I loved was The Miseducation of Cameron Post; I’m still thinking about it! Recently, I’ve been binging old seasons of Orange is the New Black. 

@: What is a meme that completely encompasses you? 

@: What do you enjoy shooting most? Where’s your favorite place to shoot?

KS: I enjoy shooting portraits the most. I love to shoot in any indoor space that has great natural lighting. These days, I’m doing a lot of shoots in my bedroom, as it has beautiful natural light that comes pouring in through the windows. I would really like to have more shoots in other people's bedrooms. When you step into someone’s private space, there is a lot that can be uncovered about who they are. 

@: Any funny or horror stories you’ve come across when shooting?

KS: With Polaroid film, you never truly know what you are going to get. Sometimes you get that beautifully exposed shot, other times the chemistry fails you. It is a big part of why I love the experience of shooting with Polaroid, but sometimes it can be challenging. A few months ago, I was doing a shoot in my room and more than half of my Polaroids did not expose. That film isn’t cheap! 

@: Any projects are you working on right now?

KS: I’m currently experimenting with filmmaking, creating short videos on how socially accepted misogyny can lead to violence against women. I want to accompany the videos with some Polaroid portraits as well. I also regularly contribute photo series to Lithium Magazine. 

@: Who’s your crush?

KS: I have huge crushes on Preston Brock and Dee Elegia, their photographs are stunning!