Michelle Kawka – Photo Talk #22

December 3rd, 2010 |  Published in K-O, PhotoTalks  |  Subscribe to Comments

Today’s interview is with Michelle Kawka. Michelle Kawka is a New York based professional photographer. Her personal work has been exhibited at the Queens Museum of Art, City Hall of the 9th Arrondissement Paris France, the Queens Hospital Center, among other places. This multifaceted artist’s short film “Animal Farm” was screened at Sunnyside Shorts Film festival. Her most recent work, portraits for “This is Our Queens” was just named the best project of 2009 by the American Society of Media Photographers.

You can see more of her work at her website – www.michellekawka.com.

On to the interview:

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Tell me a little about yourself. How did you get into photography?

MK:I got into photography when I studied in Italy in college. I found myself constantly taking pictures. The idea of sitting behind a desk and being an office for 40 years of my working life was not appealing, so I figured I would try and turn this hobby that inherently clicked with me into a career !

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: What are your primary photography interests? And why do these topics interest you?

MK:I love shooting people and places. They interest me because I find it a challenge to draw authentic emotions out of people and capture it through the camera. I love shooting places because I believe travel expands your world view and makes you a more aware person in your own community and how you relate to the world.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you talk about your experience photographing the 200 portraits for the thisisourqueens.com website?

MK:ThisisOurQueens.com is a project that highlighted the diversity of New York City’s borough of Queens. Queens County, New York is a borough of over 2.2 million people.It is the most ethnically diverse county in the world. Forty-six percent of the population is foreign born and over 138 languages are spoken throughout the borough. The website is the brainchild of Dave Kerpen, who created it as part of his campaign for borough president. He hired me to create a series of 200 individual portraits of people who live, work or are from the borough to highlight the borough’s incredible diversity. The most memorable part of the project was exploring the borough’s different neighborhoods and meeting a wide range of people from all over the world. I photographed Sikhs at a temple in Richmond Hill, was blessed by an evangelical Christian woman on the street in Jamaica, found a surfer at Rockaway Beach from Kansas who works in Ozone Park and took a portrait of a professor from CUNY Queens College who’s work involves the study of climate change in Antarctica. At the project’s completion, over 25 countries and 6 continents were represented by the people of Queens County, New York. All 200 portraits may be seen at http:www.thisisourqueens.com.

ThisIsOurQueens.com was named one of the best projects of 2009 by the American Society of Media Photographers and one of the photos was displayed the ASMP booth at Photo Plus Expo in New York this past October. The full interview about the award can be read here: http://asmp.org/articles/best-2009-kawka.html.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: As a woman photographer, can you talk about experiences & unique challenges you face when you are outside shooting?

MK: Photography can be an extremely physically demanding profession, lugging around heavy equipment and being on your feet for hours at a time. One of the challenges is the perception that women are not physically capable of a photography career. However, I also think people are less threatened by a woman photographer and are more able to trust her, and when shooting people, trust is the most important element to get a good picture.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Do you have any suggestions, opinions and/or words of advice for other women in photography?

MK: Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not a profession for women.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: What is your current project? Can you talk about it?

MK: My current project is getting an exhibition space of all 200 portraits from the ThisIsOurQueens.com project. I am contacting galleries and museums who would like to feature the work.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Any recommendations? (like Photographers, Photo techniques, Music, Books, quotes, food..anything?)

MK: The more photos you take, the better a photographer you will be. Practice really does make perfect in this profession.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

SU: Can you mention how people interested in your work can contact you?

MK: They can email me at michelle@michellekawka.com.

Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved
Photograph by Michelle Kawka, All Rights Reserved,
Photos hosted on Flickr

Thanks Michelle!

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