Flickr Faves: Laura Kicey’s Self-Portraits

November 30th, 2006 by Larry Smith

Kicey.jpgEach week, SMITH photo editor Audrie Lawrence scours the land of Flickr and finds someone doing highly personal, absolutely amazing photography that you, busy reader, probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon yourself.

This week’s treasure is Laura Kicey, a 29-year-old photographer and graphic designer living outside Philadelphia. Kicey says she was a shutterbug in college, falling in love with the black-and-white photography she took up as she worked toward her BFA in communication design. After graduation, she no longer had free access to a darkroom. “I promptly stopped taking photographs and then lost my camera,” she recalls. Luckily, in 2003 Santa brought Kicey an Olympus point-and-shoot, and a year later she discovered Flickr. “From then on, I couldn’t stop taking photos,” she says. “I don’t think anything will be stopping me anytime soon.”

When we found Kicey’s phenomenal self-portrait stream—192 photos of the photographer telling 192 stories about her life—we couldn’t stop looking. As a part of our Flickr Faves series, SMITH asked her about her life, her art, and her own mind-blowing Flickr faves.

Check out Kicey’s photoset, Kicey on Kicey: I Look Nothing Like Me.

What first attracted you to photography, and what motivated to do this self-portrait project?
I wouldn’t characterize self-portraiture as my primary interest, but I am as comfortable being in front of the camera as I am behind it. I use myself as a model because I am always here, I will always agree to do outrageous things, and I’ll work on a shot until I get it right. My self-portraits help me say things I otherwise cannot, recording my highest highs and lowest lows, so they are very much like a journal to me. For me, photography is about recording the sensory experience—reminders—and a way to transport the viewer to this same place or feeling.

Where do you get your ideas?
The sources for inspiration are varied. It might be a reaction to some event in my life (like the frenzy before my first show, dealing with heartbreak, a tribute to a friend (a photo gift for a tattooed friend’s birthday), stumbling upon an unlikely prop or piece of clothing (such as this flowery shower cap).

What’s the most important quality of a photo for you?
I think nothing conveys mood quite like color. I love throwing off white balance and shifting color temperatures to better convey the feelings I have attached to an idea, place, or thing.

Our Q&A with Laura Kicey continues here.
When do you leave your camera at home—what’s off-limits?
I haven’t found the need to leave it home yet. I take it to the movies, the bathroom, grocery shopping. I mean, really, you never know. I haven’t regretted it yet.

What’s the funniest or strangest thing you’ve seen through the viewfinder?
I’ve found myself in more peculiar places as a result of being compelled to just get out of the house and make photos. I also tend to be in places I really shouldn’t be in, like my local (and now defunct) asbestos factory and abandoned homes in Centralia. I once wound up exploring a warehouse filled with mannequin parts by invitation. And then there were:

• The burnt-out truck-stop motel in central Pennsylvania
• The Keasby and Mattison asbestos factory in Ambler, PA
• The kitchen of an abandoned house in Centralia, PA
• The mannequin warehouse in Carlisle, PA

What’s the fish that got away—a photo you saw but didn’t have a camera for?
On my last birthday, I had plans to explore this abandoned mental institute. But when my friend and I arrived, we both chickened out when we were spotted by neighbors on our way in. We later found out there was a military installation there, and friends of ours had been taken in for questioning by armed guards. So our regret was later tinged with relief. That was a very big fish.

Where do you derive inspiration?
I take inspiration from everything around me—the whole experience of being wherever I am, with people around me: the time of day, sounds and smells, the seasons, nature, how time and the elements reshape man-made structures.

What’s the picture you’d most like to take?
At the risk of sounding like I lack ambition, I don’t have one in particular. I want to continue to explore places and ideas that are new to me. So the photo I want to take most is just the one I haven’t taken yet…and the next and the next. I never know what I will stumble upon.

If anyone could take a picture of you, who would it be?
Arno Rafael Minkkinen. I find the way he involves himself in his portraits of other people fascinating.

Where are you happiest taking photographs?
Abandoned and neglected places, such as houses and factories. Places that have stories that have gone with them to their graves. I love wondering about their histories and giving them the stories I make up for them.

What’s your other favorite Flickr stream?
I have never been good at picking one favorite anything. I love so many for different reasons:

• For his theatrical portraits of friends and the homeless, I like Rodolphe Simeon.
• For their murky and raw sensuality, I like Rose and Olive.
• For her kooky, colorful nostalgia, I like Tara.
• For his intricate, poetic urban visions, I like Bruce Grant.

What are the sites, photocentric or not, that you most love online?
I’m very utilitarian with my online time—Wikipedia, AccuWeather, and MapQuest get the most visits from me, doing research on places to visit and plotting mini-expeditions. Utata is a great community I am happy to be a part of, but generally I call Flickr my online home. Otherwise, I spend as much of my time offline as possible.

What’s your six-word memoir?
She couldn’t remember; they wouldn’t forget.

Check out Kicey’s photoset, Kicey on Kicey: I Look Nothing Like Me.

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