Spotlight for Inspiration - Kristin Villano
Let's start with your personal life. Where are you from? How old are you?
Well, I am old. Just kidding, I am 45. There is so much young talent in our group I feel like one of the moms of our fantastic fine art community.
I was born in California, but I grew up and continue to live in beautiful Colorado.
Haha! That is not old at all! I've heard 30s and 40s are the prime of a woman's life!
There is a lot of talent indeed. You are one of them!!!
Are you married? Have any children?
I am married. I have a fabulous husband and two amazing boys. Cameron my eldest, just turned 22 and my youngest, Roman, is 6.
That sounds amazing! Thank you for sharing.
When did you first pick up a camera? What inspired you to do so?
I first feel in love with the camera in high school. Back then it was mostly about documenting my friends and all of our adventures. For many years photography was my main way of cataloging my life. Back when my youngest was born I was actually in the middle of getting my nursing degree. Becoming pregnant was a surprise that changed my plans a bit. My last semester I was experiencing what you would call "pregnancy brain", which meant I was not quite able to retain any information. Because of this unfortunate side effect I decided that instead of risking my GPA that I would instead take a break from my nursing degree and spend the semester focusing on fine art. One of the fine art classes I signed up for was photography. It was an interesting experience because the class was full of people just picking up their cameras for the first time and here I was with 20 years of photography experience. After the first couple of assignments the instructor pulled me aside and said, "You shouldn't be in the class, you should be doing this professionally."
(For those who are not from the United States and don’t understand what GPA means, it is grade point average. This, basically, shows how good or bad you are doing in school.)
WOW! I bet you were flattered when the professor told you that!!! How did you shift from documenting friends to fine art?
Very flattered. Honestly, I thought she was crazy but I had nothing to lose by trying. :)
Moving into Fine Art Photography was very recent for me. At the end of 2012 I started having severe shoulder pain and tons of nerve pain down my right arm. After many tests and an MRI I found out that I have two very herniated cervical disks in my neck and they were pressing on a nerve branch which was causing the pain. The doctor figured that years of wearing a camera around my neck and excessive hours at the computer was the culprit so I had to take a break.
During that time I realized that physically I couldn't continue taking on tons of clients and that if I was being honest with myself (which always takes me a while) that my heart wasn't in it anymore.
So I took a break from photography. I put my camera away and I left FB for a period of time so I wouldn't be hit with wonderful images daily making me miss it even more.
Then in June a friend of mine was doing a fine art workshop in a ghost town in Montana. I had always wanted to go there so I decided to attend and see what happened. That was when everything clicked. I came home so inspired. I had created images there that me so incredibly happy. I realized while editing them that I was so inspired I didn't eat or drink for hours because I just wanted to see where they went. That is when I knew I was supposed to be using my camera and my love for photography to create art, to be creative.
I'm sorry to hear all the pain you had to go through. I think a lot of photographers go through similar things. Those are the cons of having such big cameras and equipment.
So, from what I understand you started documenting friends, then became a portrait photographer, and recently started delving into fine art!?
Yes, that is basically my journey. :)
That sounds incredibly inspiring. You found your "aha" moment! I love when life just clicks and you find your path.
Tell me about your evolution with creating fine art photographs. How did you discover your style?
It definitely was my "aha" moment. I think for a long time deep down I know that was where my heart was but I denied it because I grew up with the message that being a creative wasn't lucrative.
My process/evolution in creating an image is different than some people. Even though I have a plan before I even begin to shoot my work, I find that the images themselves take on a whole new life once I get them into PS. It is there that I really create a story and sometimes it is so different then my original vision.
I know it may sound strange but I think my "style" esthetic was already there before I started in fine art. For the last couple of years on the recommendation of a friend I started competing in PPA's print competitions both locally and internationally. In doing that I had to be really detailed oriented and I think that is how my style evolved.
There are a lot of conceptual photographers that take bits of inspiration from other photographers or artists. Did you ever do that?
That is an interesting question. This is a subject I really struggle with . I love numerous photographers of different styles. I love looking at and admire their work, but I struggle because I don't want them to influence my work. It is really important to me to have my own voice and I as wonderfully talented the photographers I follow are, I never want hear that my work reminds them of someone else. I know it is said often that there aren't any real original ideas any more, but it is important for me to be authentically myself.
I totally understand and I love that. So much of our personalities are shown through this! It becomes part of our spirit and a signature of sorts.
You said that you had been doing photography for 20 years before starting fine art. I assume that if was an easy transition going from editing portraits to editing conceptual photos? Do you do composites?
Not at first. I, actually, started teaching myself to composite when I had to fix something for competition. In competition everything counts; the placement of a hand, the tilting of the head. Sometimes I wouldn't catch in camera and I had to fix it in PS. It was through numerous mistakes that I learned to composite. Then because I was compositing to fix my mistakes I had to learn to edit very cleanly and blend well. In my case it took a lot of trial and error.
This takes me to the next question. Do you believe PS is a necessary tool to be a great conceptual photographer?
No, absolutely not. First off, fine art photography encompasses so many styles and genres. So I think that however anyone wants to express themselves within that category with whatever tools they choose is art.
As a former film photographer I know that for years manipulation was done in camera using multiple exposures or within the dark room. There are so many techniques out there (some even undiscovered yet) that can be used by someone creating and photographing their own concepts. Every artist has tools or techniques which help to inspire them and create their art, Photoshop is just one tool available to photographic artists wanting to express themselves. For me, personally, Photoshop is my paint box. It allows me the freedom to create what I see in my mind and tell the stories I want to tell. Despite this, I am always playing around to see if something else captures my heart. If and when I find something new you will see it come out in my work as well. :)
That's amazing to hear. When that happens, be sure to show the group as well!!!
My next question is… how do you come up with your concepts? What are you inspired by?
I will! I love this group. We are all so in love with the idea of creating and encouraging each other. It is a very special place.
Sometimes my concepts come to me in dreams. I have the strangest and wackiest dreams, always have. I find that most of them pop into my head randomly or else they come to life in Photoshop. No matter how they come to be, I have learned recently that I cannot try and force it. I need to allow them to come to me when it is time.
Have you ever noticed a certain theme or element come up in your images or are they all totally different?
In some of my recent work I have found that the feeling of powerless, trapped, or struggling have played a part of my work in some way or another.
Would you say that those themes come up in your personal life? Or are they something that your spirit simply wants to express?
I am sure they do in some way or another come into play. I think everyone at some point or another has a struggle or feels trapped by a life or a situation. I want to explore that.
That sounds interesting and I agree. I cannot wait to see even more of your work and how you explore those themes.
Do you want to get into gallery shows? Have you been in any? Do you want to have your work commissioned? What's next for you? Where do you want to take your fine art work? What are your future goals and aspirations?
Having people being moved by images to where they want it hanging on their walls is my ultimate dream. Since I have only been working on building my fine art portfolio for such a short time I am going to spend this year focusing on that and once that is done I will put myself out there by submitting to galleries and such.
Love it. I bet you will develop a marvelous portfolio.
We are almost out of time today. I have a couple more questions before we finish this incredible interview. Something I've been dying to ask you is...what is your favorite PS tool?
Oh that is a fantastic question! I am not sure it can be considered a tool but I love layer masks. I make so many mistakes that layers masks are my much utilized safety net. Next would be brushes because they help me to blend seamlessly which is really important to me. :)
Perfect!!! Oh I just love talking with you and listening to everything you have to say. However, this interview must end sometime! It's time for my final question! You have a chance to give all the photographers in our group one piece of advice. What advice do you want to give them?
Get out of your own way (I am telling myself this as well). I think as artist we have fear when it comes to creating and sharing our work because our work is our soul. We are in every part of what we create and sometimes that makes it hard make are dreams a reality because as people many of us fear rejection. Just follow your heart and create your dreams. Getting out there and expressing yourself is so much more important than the reactions, both good or bad, that might come from it. Life is too short not to live your dreams. :)
That is incredible. I could not have said it better. I believe that most of us feel that way. We must let our fears go and take the leap. Have faith in ourselves and just believe. Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me and tell me about your life. Your soul really shows through your beautiful work and your inspiration. I cannot wait to see what else you create and how everything turns out.