Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Conversation with Klea McKenna

Klea McKenna produces beautiful images that convey a direct message about the earth and nature, something that many of us have lost connection with. I find her work refreshing because of its earthy essence. It makes me want to get out of the city and explore the grounds nature has provided. She is rooted in the process of art-making and reminds us all of what is really important: life, family, health, love and nature. We are pleased to present this interview with Klea McKenna.

23 Flies Collected From Home © Klea McKenna

Flight Patterns © Klea McKenna

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

Klea McKenna: I grew up in rural Northern California and Hawaii in a very, shall we say “bohemian” family. It’s strange because I grew up in very rural places, small towns, but despite the local culture, my parents instilled in me a thirst for the big, complicated world out there. I love to experience unfamiliar places. I’ve lived in a few different countries, working, drifting, but I struggle with it because I also think that putting down roots and investing your self in a particular location and community is really important. I guess the idea of place, of being placed, is relevant for me right now; I think about it a lot. I currently live in San Francisco, and am finishing my MFA here, which is right for the moment.

Taxonomy of my brother's garden © Klea McKenna

West of the highway, our side of the river © Klea McKenna

NP: How did you discover photography?

KM: I came to photography around age 13. I had always done creative things - art and dance, but then photography just took hold of me. Sometimes, I feel frustrated that it never occurred to me, to actually think it through and make a choice about what I would do. I just kept making photographs as though it was the only possibility, and photography may not be the wisest career choice. Mostly, I just feel grateful that I never floundered, that I always knew what I wanted. I’ve been very lucky that way.

Untitled (pool) © Klea McKenna

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

KM: My most generative projects seem to come from found material, whether it is actual physical material (as it was in The Butterfly Hunter), or just people’s stories and lives. I think there is a part of me that always wants to collaborate in some way, to be an interpreter rather than a maker. I think that the medium of photography is really suited to this.
Making a photograph is almost always, in some way, a collaborative act. I am consistently inspired by people’s relationship to nature, I mean that in the broadest sense, it seems to be the thread that runs through all my work.

NP: How do your projects come about?

KM: In different ways, sometimes I plot and plan for months or years in advance. I have a sort of index in my mind of possible future projects. Of course many of these will get ditched along the way. Occasionally, they come in a flash with a kind of ruthless urgency, and those are the good ones. For me, the struggle isn’t in coming up with ideas, but rather in manifesting them and in being open to detours and changes. It can be hard to let go of that initial vision and let the work lead you. I do always work in projects though; I compartmentalize things more than I’d like to. I think excessive schooling has reinforced that.

NP: What's next?

KM: I’ve been making work lately that has been largely constructed, or more about making than about looking, and I’d like to go back to looking for a while. I’m really interested in the way people adapt when they are uprooted, and that’s happening to so many people right now because of our current economic situation. I think that this shift makes us relate to place and nature in unlikely ways. This becomes visible in the summertime because we inhabit space differently when the weather is warm, so I am looking forward to summer.

NP: Thank You!!

Too see more of Klea's work, please visit

1 comment:

Arkam said...

For Klea: I have enjoyed each picture you have made. But one specially caught my attention, at the countryside, old house with wires hanging between poles and beyond the sky turns around the wires, then a flock of birds between the wires kinda musical accord or a graphic depicting the random theorem in statistics. Needless to say, the butterfly hunter is a very nice arrangement of your Dad's legacy. Keep up the good work Klea, the gods are with you, now and forever, him also. Would you do something for me? Google and read George Kavassilas latest paper for Equinox 2009. He mention your dad in a very honoring way. After you get to know George's message, then you will know why I AM commenting this to you. Until next time, beautiful one. PD: Keynote: Across the Universe by Jason Falkner.