PHOTOGRAPHY

Kendall Hubbard

OCTOBER 2020

Meet the lovely Kendall Hubbard, a young gun who spends her days split between photography and design. Kendall so graciously talks us through how photography became part of her life, and how feeling a little lost or unsure after high school, led her to also pursue design. You can find Kendall working for Smack Bang Designs in Sydney.

How did photography begin for you? What made you gravitate towards becoming a 'photographer'?
I think I’ve always been nostalgic even from super young, so I spent a lot of time as a kid looking through old family photos from my childhood and generations before me, always gravitating towards favourites that – while I doubt I could articulate then – I can see now had a certain ‘feel’ about them or a particular composition I liked. There was always something about seeing a little peek into other people’s worlds or even my past memories that I liked. I remember looking at things through the ol’ two-finger guns making a rectangle frame, lining things up and mentally capturing (as cliche as it sounds!) interesting scenes. I still have a vivid memory of sitting in the back of our family car driving past a dusty footy field around golden hour – the combination of footy player silhouettes, dry reddish dust in the air and the warm orange glow – I was deeeeply cut that I didn’t own a camera to capture it!

I officially got into film photography in early high school when my Grandad passed down his old Asahi Pentax for me to have a play with – around the time my older brother was also getting into photography meaning I always had a buddy to go shoot with (and scour garage sales for cheap cameras with). Around Year 9/10 I’d proudly saved up and bought my first DSLR (Canon 500D) and managed to secure a week of work experience and then a weekend job with a family friend who was a pretty successful wedding photographer at the time. Every Saturday he’d teach me how to pick a good shot from a bad, and adjust colour and lighting to bring out the best, natural aspects of the shot. By late high school I was heavily into photography, spending my spare time on Tumblr building a list of photographers I straight-up wanted to be, convincing my art teacher that every assignment should involve time in the school darkroom, and regularly employing my best friends as models for my self-styled ‘editorial’ shoots (payment was a new profile picture - naturally).

It wasn’t until a couple of years into my professional life as a graphic designer that I found my way back to photography as an actual career job, instead of just a hobby on the side.


I'm super interested to know how you came to do graphic design first as a career after being exposed to photography for so long?! And what made you fall back into pursuing photography?
Yeah ironically after such a big run at photography through high school, I ended up in graphic design, which was kind of by mistake. When I left high school I was kind of lost for what to do and because I didn’t do so well in the HSC, TAFE was my only option. I found a ‘design’ course at my local TAFE and signed up, with the understanding that it was based on electives hoping I might be able to pick a photography elective class. In reality, the one class consisted of me and 6 others my age, a single mum looking to re-train, and two English grandmas (very sweet, learnt how to double click a mouse on the very first day) who needed to study to keep their visas.

We learnt the basics of the entire Adobe Suite and by the end of the year, I had a Design Cert 4 and the natural progression was to move on to Enmore TAFE where I studied Graphic Design and then went on to get my job at Smack Bang Designs.

It wasn’t until about 2 years into the job that I mentioned I ‘kind of had photography skills’ they could use for portfolio shoots etc. When we launched an in-house journal/magazine, I was lucky enough to contribute quite a lot of photography to it. The rest I guess is history - I now work half/half photography and graphic design, on both client and internal shoots and design.

Why do you love being a photographer? Are there specific clients or work that you feel most comfortable shooting?
I think my love for people has a big influence on my I love for shooting – while I love finding interesting light falling on people, places, objects, what I love most is capturing faces, bodies, emotions, the honest and real stuff that you only see through connection with your subject.

I love shooting ‘real’ people – people who aren’t often in front of a camera – and creating something they feel good in. Whether it's documenting someone in their natural habitat like a friend shaping a surfboard, a new mum with fresh stretch marks that she’s learning to love as much as her new son, or photographing some ‘tasteful nudes’ for a friend before her wedding day – I love seeing the warmth and humble surprise in people when they actually feel good about themselves in a photo.

I’ve also found photography is such an amazing tool for gaining insight into people’s worlds, and I love the conversation that naturally flows when you’re documenting someone at work. For me it’s less about being proud of the end shot (that’s a bonus), it’s maybe more the connection it forms between me and the person in front of the lens.

Over the last 2 years, I feel as if consumers have started gravitating towards photos that are more ‘raw’ after the editing process has finished. Things like lighting and shadows people feel comfortable with being edited, but erasing ‘imperfections’ on the skin is a different story. Why do you think this is the case? 
I love this topic because it’s something I feel super strong about in my personal and professional life. I think as the world progresses from outdated beauty ideals and into a more body-positive acknowledgement that no two bodies or stories are alike, the expectation is for photography and media to follow suit. Reality is, the people viewing the images are more than likely not going to look like the people in the airbrushed magazines etc of the past, so it’s a cool time for people to now be seeing faces, bodies, that they can see aspects of themselves in.

I’m a big believer that vulnerability breeds connection and I think there's something about an image that is unashamedly ‘imperfect’ and un-retouched that feels easier to connect with on a deeper level and gives you more insight into the subjects deeper world than just a facade one might put on for show. I once heard an ideology around retouching that it’s ok to remove anything that won’t be there in two weeks (meaning pimples and blemishes, ok, but birthmarks, stretch marks and anything n between, no go), but I think as photographers we have the responsibility to consider these adjustments and contemplate the message we want to communicate, as well as the less conscious message that will inevitably be communicated either way through our decisions on how we alter an image.

This concept was the basis behind a shoot I pitched and produced a couple of years ago for Baskk, a journal being produced by my agency at the time. The theme was ‘Linear’ and our creative director asked me to pitch an idea for a shoot I felt strongly about. The result was ‘Feminine Lines’, an exploration into the female form - including figures of all types and ages, and traditionally ‘hidden’ natural linear features of the female body including traumatic scars, stretch marks, belly rolls, underwear tension lines, wrinkles and the like. The result of the day was a beautiful experience of women getting to show off and tell stories about learning to love their ever-changing bodies. For me personally, I walked away, having spent the day surrounded by essentially ten naked women, with a whole new sense of my own body, and a lot greater appreciation for the differences in all of us.
A lot of people may be unaware of how much work goes into creating a shoot. There is an extensive amount of research/organising that goes into the pre-production: concept development, location/prop sourcing, shot lists etc. How do you generally get organised for a shoot?
I currently work for an agency which means I’m lucky to have a big team of project managers, art directors and collaborators to work with on bringing a shoot to life. For us, shoot prep can be anything from 2 weeks to 4 months ahead of time (and sometimes longer!) just to get every element of the shoot right, before the big day.

The process usually begins with myself and/or the art director sitting down and putting together a concept mood board for the look and feel of the shoot, considering things like models, wardrobe, lighting, colouring, editing style and props. If it’s an internal shoot for our portfolio or a journal we’re producing, the concept mood board is sent to our creative director to approve, and if it’s a client shoot, the client will review and sign off on the direction. Once that’s locked in, we jump into pre-production. Depending on the scale and type of shoot, that might include working with modelling or talent agencies for casting, sourcing props and wardrobe internally or working with a stylist to do this, location scouting, as well as rounds and revisions of shot lists to ensure we capture everything required on the day.

On the day of a shoot, have you ever experienced something going ‘wrong’? How do you deal and move forward from setbacks on the shoot day?
Honestly, I think the way I work is always trying to be prepared enough that if something goes ‘wrong’, there should usually be a way forward with what we have on hand. As part of our process, we consider what shots might need extra caution or preparation (e.g. pouring bright blue paint all over our work area - good to have a surface we can hide in the shot that is easier to clean than the shooting table!) Sometimes we might have a shot we thought would look good but on the day the pieces aren’t adding up, so taking a step back and bouncing ideas back and forth between me and the art director always helps, but so does knowing when to move on. It's usually a careful mix of pre-preparation and the confidence to wing it if necessary. And if all else fails, post-production editing is a beautiful thing.
What are some of your favourite photography resources or photographers to follow?
Early days in the world of tumblr I discovered Olivia Bee and Ryan McGinley, blogs like Rookie Mag they were all massive influences on my love for documentation-style photography - less overtly perfect and more observational/glimpses into lives.

Through art class, photographers like Max Dupain, Cartier Bresson, Slim Aarons, Annie Leibovitz stood out. My once wannabe-skater-girl alter ego led to towards people like Riley Blakeway and the stuff he did for Monster Children - (designing for Monster Children was actually one of the first graphic design roles I so desperately wanted, pre-qualification), Hugh Holland, Glen Friedman - I never learnt to skate (too clumsy) but their styles influenced mine for sure.

More recently, I’ve loved the work of again very documentation-style photographers like Lisa Sorgini, Magdalena Wosinska, Sabrina Santiago and some great portrait photographers like Heather Hazzan and Beth Sacca. 

To support Kendall, you can do so by following her instagram here. 

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