Next we’re featuring Dylan and Joanna, The Kitcheners from Scotland. They share with us how they met from different parts of the world and made Edinburgh their home, their love for shooting weddings and elopements in the Highlands and their passion for street and travel photography. They recently also were recently named one of Rangefinder magazine’s 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography.
Interview by Sachin Khona // December 2015
PHOTOGRAPHY WORK & PRACTICES
HEY DYLAN and Joanna, Thank you for being a part of this series ..
Where is home for you and where do you work?
Home for us is Edinburgh, Scotland and we have been living here together for almost 5 years.
Have you always lived there or was there a conscious choice to move to where you currently live?
Dylan is originally from Tasmania, Australia and Joanna is from a small town in Poland called Przemyśl. Our story together began when we started chatting on Flickr back in 2009 when Flickr was still a big thing.
Joanna was working in Bali teaching Japanese at the time and since it was a pretty short flight to Australia we met up and spent some time together in Queensland and ended up living there together for almost a year. After a while we decided the best option for us was to move to somewhere in the UK. Dylan has Scottish ancestry and after some research and a bit of Google image searching we decided that Scotland was an awesome place for us to begin our life together. Even though we are both from different parts of the world, we consider Scotland as our home now and feel very fortunate to live here.
In what way, if any, does your location influence your work?
Scotland’s diverse landscape was one of the primary reasons we moved here and we’re spoiled to have such breathtaking and beautiful locations right on our doorstep. We’re surrounded by forests, mountains, lochs and cliff sides and dark, moody skies are a common occurrence here.
There’s nothing we love more than photographing in the great outdoors and the Scottish landscape is a wonderful place to capture and tell a story.
Whenever we’re photographing a wedding or elopement in the highlands we’re always trying to incorporate the surrounding environment as much as possible and use it to help emphasize/illustrate the emotional connection between the couple
There is a massive difference between the drama of an epic mountainous backdrop and the calmness of a forest or quiet loch and we really enjoy the variety of moods that the Scottish landscape can offer.
When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
In a professional sense we both decided that we wanted to be photographers shortly after we met in 2010. We’d both separately enjoyed street, travel and portrait photography for several years before we started shooting weddings together but it took the two of us meeting each other to have the confidence and encouragement to move on from our previous careers and pursue photography as a profession.
Do you have a designated workspace or office?
We both work from home and have a designated office/workspace. Dylan is notorious for having a messy workspace and his desk it usually covered in SD cards, external hard drives and empty coffee mugs. Joanna usually works from her laptop either from her office workspace or in a coffee shop.
What has been the most defining moment in your career? OR Do you feel there was a turning point, monumental time, or series of events in your life that you were felt as though you were on the right path in regards to your photography career that bought you to where you are now?
I think the turning point in our photography career was in 2013 when we photographed our first elopement on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. We’d only been photographing weddings for a year and had never heard of an elopement before and didn’t even know it was a ‘thing’. The couple contacted us at the last-minute (about 2 weeks before the elopement date) to fill us in on their plans and we knew right away that this was going to be something amazing.
After capturing this elopement we knew very clearly which direction we wanted to steer our focus in. The combination of the landscape, the emotion, the story-telling possibilities and the intimacy of just two people declaring their vows for one another in the middle of a breathtaking location was and still is the most inspiring thing for us.
Can you describe your style via a series of 10 photos that you feel define the work you’ve done in the last year?
These images are spread throughout the interview.
What inspires and motivates you?
Having the opportunity to travel, meet new people and experience new cultures is our constant source of inspiration.
We also take a lot of creative inspiration from cinema and when we’re not photographing we’re usually watching or talking about movies together. We’ve both always admired a good story told in a visually beautiful way and in many ways we see the wedding day as a beautiful film with a beginning, middle and an end.
What creative training do you do outside of your work?
Our passion is still street and travel photography and even though we don’t really have the time to pursue it as much as we would like these days, we still make time every year to travel somewhere and spend a few days together photographing on the streets.
For us, street photography is a brilliant way to keep the eye sharp in the use of composition and light while at the same time working on your our feet and adapting to whatever unscripted situation comes along.
It’s also a great way to learn to be patient and wait for/anticipate certain situations to happen or for the right person to walk into a composed and ready frame.
It’s such a great feeling when everything in the universe lines up for one perfect and never-to-be-repeated moment and we’re there ready to capture it.
When you get stuck creatively, what is the first thing you do to get unstuck?
The best thing we can do to get unstuck creatively is step back from our work for a while. Usually if we feel like we’re in a creative rut it’s because we’re photographing too much and things are starting to feel repetitive. For next year we’re focusing on taking on less work so we can put more creative energy into each wedding.
Also, watching a really inspiring film every now and then really helps too!
How do you know when a piece of your work is finished and needs no additional work?
If you’re talking about completing the post-production stage then it’s usually quite a long process. Dylan is a bit of a perfectionist so our editing process usually takes 2-3 days of fine-tuning exposure, tones, contrast and making sure we can do everything possible to enhance each image and bring out it’s full potential. Usually we will edit a wedding, let it sink in a bit, then come back to it a day later to have a fresh perspective and perhaps make some adjustments to aspects we didn’t notice before. When we feel like there is nothing else we can change to enhance the images, then we know that they’re ready.
Are there any key lessons in your career that you’d like to share? OR Best piece of career advice you were ever given?
Working hard and maintaining a good attitude is something we’ve heard repeated many times and we focus a lot of our energy on doing both of these things.
Sometimes this job can demand a lot physically, mentally and emotionally and actually choosing to approach things with a positive attitude and not get bogged down with too much negativity is very important in moving in the right direction.
Do you have a photograph burned in your memory that you never took but wish you had?
Not really. I’m sure there are unlimited possibilities of potential photos that we could have taken but I think we would go crazy if we spent too much time dwelling about it.
Can you share one creative tip that you use when you are working?
I think creativity can only really flourish when you’re inspired so for us it’s important to try as much as possible to take on work that is somehow inspiring and interesting to us… perhaps a location or venue that we’ve never photographed at before or even just the moving or emotional story of a couple can be really inspiring for us.
What are the 3 most important things in your personal life?
Family. Both being away for so long from our homes and families in Australia and Poland has made us appreciate more the positive influence that our parents and grandparents have had on our lives. I doubt we would be doing what we’re doing today if it wasn’t for the support and encouragement from our families.
Time with each other. Maintaining a balance between work and private time together is a constant challenge for us and being self-employed together usually means spending time with each other 24/7. Usually it’s difficult to tune out of ‘work-mode’ and focus purely on enjoying time with one another so we have to consciously make the effort to put time aside. At the end of the day we’re very lucky to be able to travel and experience everything together and we’re grateful for the lifestyle that photography can bring.
Friendship. The support from our friends in everyday life and online is amazing and we’re grateful to be able to have such amazing people in our lives.
Do you work in any other fields of business?
Not at the moment.
Can you share a bit about your daily schedule? What within your work do you not like to do and why?
Our daily schedule kind of all over the place and one of our main goals for next year is to focus on being more productive with our time… maybe schedule office hours or something like that. Currently we don’t really have a schedule when it comes to working and we usually find ourselves working/editing until 2am in the morning.
If we had to pick one aspect that we dislike about what we do it would be writing emails… sometimes we feel like our job description should be ‘professional email answerers’ rather than photographers but I guess that comes with the territory.
There are waaaay too many things that we love about this profession but for us the most enjoyable aspect about what we do is seeing new places and meeting new and interesting people and hearing about their stories.
What was your hardest / painful creative failure to deal with and what did it teach you?
Nothing difficult or painful yet but we’ve experienced a whole bunch of small failures over the last 3.5 years and have learnt and taken away something from them all. It’s not really a failure (more of a regret) but we wish we had invested a lot more time into networking with other photographers at the very beginning of our photography career as this has helped our business and opened many avenues over the last years.
What will you be doing (or hope to be doing) 5/10 years from now?
We don’t have any definite plans for 10 years down the track and we’re open-minded to where life takes us, however we hope we can continue to do what we’re doing for as long as we feel we still have something to say and accomplish.
We feel that we’re still near the beginning of our journey with photography and that there is still so much more we can achieve and learn.
Can you share an image that you’re particularly proud of and tell us why?
Out of all the images we’ve taken, this one holds the most meaning to us personally.
The two people in this photo are the talented Robby and Marina from ‘Capyture Photography’ and this was snapped seconds after the moment Robby proposed to Marina in the Scottish highlands and she said ‘yes’! This photo says everything about that particular moment and it doesn’t get anymore honest or genuine than this. Since sharing this unforgettable day with Robby and Marina we’ve become close friends.
THE CORE // FOUNDATION
Are there any mantras that you live by?
We don’t really live by any mantras but if there’s anything we try to do on a day-to-day basis it’s just be good and genuine people.
If you were no longer able to use a camera, how else would you express your creativity?
Joanna would rediscover her love for drawing and painting and Dylan would learn a musical instrument.
If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend your day?
With our families.
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
We both love animals so if our cameras had magical powers we’d like to end animal suffering and cruelty.
Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
Absolutely. We’ve gotten to the point that we’re pretty confident about what we’re doing but we think every person that is in a creative field has moments of doubt and we’re certainly no different. With so much amazing and inspiring work out there today it’s easy to compare yourself to others and undervalue or doubt your own work.
We learnt very early on in our business that nothing good comes from comparing yourself to others and the quickest way to get to the place you want to be at is to believe fully in what you’re doing and follow your own intuition.
QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS
Your favourite podcast(s)
It’s been a while since we’ve listened to a podcast.
Music // Share a Spotify playlist
We both have different music tastes but we both like a bit of Radiohead, Apparat, Sigur Ros, The XX, Bonobo, Telefon Tel Aviv plus a million other things.
Film / Documentary that is a must watch
We recently watched a really visually inspiring movie called ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ by Zhang Yimou but any movie by Jim Jarmusch, Wong Kar Wai, David Lynch, Ulrich Seidl and Hirokazu Koreeda.
Your favourite book // A book you are currently reading
Dylan: ‘The Singularity Is Near’ by Ray Kurzweil.
Joanna: ‘A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East’ by Tiziano Terzani
A website you regularly follow?
Last place you travelled?
Favourite photographer or photo project outside of your genre?
Dylan: Vivian Maier.
Joanna: Hamid Sardar-Afkhami‘s ‘Lost Mongolian Tribes’ project.
Do you have a favourite poem or quote?
“The mind of the past is ungraspable; the mind of the future is ungraspable; the mind of the present is ungraspable” – Diamond Sutra
Dylan: Single malt scotch whiskey.
Joanna: Green tea
Favourite (photography related) TED talk:
We don’t really have one.
Last gallery / exhibit you visited
The Diane Arbus exhibition in Amsterdam.
Your favourite photography book
Can you share a short assignment / project that has benefited you in the past OR create / describe an assignment that you feel can help those reading this interview?
Street/travel photography has benefited us in the past and we can recommend this for anyone that wants to get good at spotting and anticipating moments and also using the changing light/composition while working on their feet.
Links to your personal work // projects
It’s been a while since we’ve updated this part of our website but this is some of our travel photography: http://thekitcheners.co.uk/travel
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME DYLAN AND JOANNA!
You can see more of The Kitchener’s work here // Web
UP NEXT …
Stay tuned for an interview next with portrait, editorial and wedding photographer, Nirav Patel.
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