Chicago-based fashion and portrait photographer Kirsten Miccoli likes to create images that ask more questions than they answer. Today, she opens up to us about her creative process; shows us some of her favorite images; and shares her insights on how to overcome times when inspiration is lacking.
What’s the one quote that always fires you up?
KM: I wish I knew more awesome quotes off the top of my head, but, to be honest I get the most fired up by exploring the world and thinking about the endless possibilities photography has to offer. I also find it really inspiring to look at other artist’s work and surround myself with people that are also always creating new things.
Do you have any particular habits that are a part of how you begin your creative process?
KM: For my personal work, I tend to become really fixated on an idea or concept that comes from something I stumble upon; it could be anything from a model, the way certain light hits a building, or unique shapes created by clothing on a figure. I can have a specific concept in my head for a couple months before I really know what I want to do with it. During this time, I like gathering inspirational imagery and creating mood boards so when I am ready to plan the shoot I can share the visuals with my team of stylists, hair/makeup artists and models. Things usually change along the way, but I like to have a solid plan and then deviate from it when the time comes.
It’s a little different when I am working with my clients. I like to ask a lot of questions in our pre-production meetings so I better understand the images they have in their head and what I need to do to bring them to life. Sometimes my idea of a specific concept can differ from my clients so it helps to be really particular when discussing things like tone, lighting, color palette and overall mood. It helps me to feel inspired by what they are inspired by so I can get in the mindset to create exactly what they are looking for.
What do you do when you hit a wall during your creative process?
KM: Every time I hit a wall I try to remember that it is an opportunity to grow. I don’t usually have any trouble staying inspired to create but sometimes logistics can be difficult when the idea for a shoot is larger than the resources available. During these times I try to be open-minded. I think asking others for help can be an invaluable resource. Whether you are bouncing ideas off of a friend or asking somebody for a favor – it’s better to try and fail than not try at all.
What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever captured and why?
KM: This is such a hard question! My favorite photo changes all the time. I usually get really excited about new photos right after a shoot and then the excitement fades as I get used to looking at my images. I gravitate towards photos that tell a story. I did a series called Frozen a couple years ago where I covered two models in paint and photographed them in a pool of milk. I really love those images because they fool the eye and make you think about what you are seeing.
Another image that jumps out at me is one from my Rebound series. It was shot in the parking lot of a laundromat against a plain beige wall. The model is wearing an orange wig and is turned away from the camera. I like the shape her coat makes, the overall tone of the image and the awkward position of her body. I think I gravitate towards it because it asks more questions than it answers.
What book would you recommend any creative person read?
KM: Any Tim Walker photo book. He is one of my favorite photographers and the books show his drawings and basic insight into his creative process. Looking through his images always inspire me. I also love fantasy and science fiction – if you like that kind of thing then I highly recommend Brandon Sanderson’s work; specifically the Kingkiller Chronicles because the world he creates is so brilliant and unusual.
You can view more of Kirsten’s work at her website.
Dane Johnson was the former Editor of PHLEARN Magazine, where he helped creatives share their stories. Dane currently is the co-founder of Clementine Coffee Roasters and he accepts most assertions of his hipster-ness and millennialism without flinching.