The Tension of Paradox

  Jessica (Belmond police officer)   © Kristine Heykants 2018

Jessica (Belmond police officer)  © Kristine Heykants 2018

Often I choose a project because I feel a need to explore conflicting feelings on a subject. Through photography I am able to examine many points of view, in part to satisfy my curiosity, in part to educate myself, in part to participate in a lived experience. What results typically leaves me with more diametrically opposing facts than when I started. This is certainly true of Uprooted, where my research in Belmond has permitted me to tell a more nuanced story of life in the rural Midwest . 

I find comfort and inspiration in seeing how other artists wrestle with paradox. While on summer vacation in New Mexico recently, I jumped at the chance to see a survey of work by the late Patrick Nagatani, showing at the New Mexico Museum of Art . He is known for his tongue-in-cheek treatment of serious subjects like the effects of development and deployment nuclear weapons on humans and the environment. I was especially taken with Great Yellow Father, a picture he made in collaboration with painter Andrée Tracey. We see Nagatani himself taking a picture of flying Koi who are ostensibly jumping out of the tainted yellow river, while he is dressed in a Kodak T-shirt and baseball cap, with a dark Kodak factory off in the distance. It seems The Great Yellow Father (as Kodak is commonly called among photographers) is referring to our complicity in pollution, while pointing out the absurdity and privilege of photography as a leisurely pastime.

If you happen to be in Santa Fe, Patrick Nagatani: Invented Realities is on view until September 9, 2018.

Rootstalk Prairie Journal

  Fireworks at Wright County Fair   © Kristine Heykants 2018

Fireworks at Wright County Fair  © Kristine Heykants 2018

I’m honored to have a selection of images from Uprooted included in the Spring 2018 edition of Rootstalk: A Prairie Journal of Culture, Science, and the Arts, published by the Center for Prairie Studies at Grinnell College. Rootstalk contains essays, poetry, photography, podcasts, and multi-media features covering topics as diverse as history of place, starting a farm-to-table coffee shop, life growing up in an early homesteading family in Kansas, and new crop seed varieties.

The Rootstalk editors chose several of my night scenes that reflect a dark undercurrent within. If you are interested in rural Midwestern culture, Rootstalk is a must-read!

Recent Commissioned Work

  Shelby in Gotti  frames for  InVision      © Kristine Heykants 2018

Shelby in Gotti frames for InVision   © Kristine Heykants 2018

One of my favorite aspects of shooting commissioned work is the opportunity to apply my creative problem solving skills to address a client's specific need. InVision Distinctive Eyewear is a local full-service optical boutique specializing in unique handmade frames from Europe and Japan. In our age of online convenience bargain shopping, my challenge was to convey the custom style experience a customer can expect when shopping at InVision. We created a mix of upbeat images showcasing a fashion-forward yet authentic and accessible look. And we had a lot of fun doing it!

You can shop InVision's unique selection of eyewear at four Twin Cities locations: Grand Avenue in St. Paul, North Loop in Minneapolis, Galleria in Edina, and Wayzata Blvd in Minnetonka. 

Truth and Mirrors

 Jalynne and Lynn (scholars in Sustainable Agriculture), 2016 (from     Uprooted   )    © Kristine Heykants 2018

Jalynne and Lynn (scholars in Sustainable Agriculture), 2016 (from Uprooted  © Kristine Heykants 2018

These days, we talk a lot about the slippery nature of truth. Even Facebook has started revealing sources of articles posted on its news feed. During my days as a student in photojournalism, ideals like truth and objectivity were drilled down every day. Yet I was never satisfied with the J-School definition of truth. In recent years, social justice movements like Black Lives Matter have forced consumers of mainstream media to recognize that truth has everything to do with who is telling the story, as well as the intended audience.

Recently I have been reading about German photographer August Sander and his connection to the artists of the New Objectivity movement that took place during the Weimar Republic era (1919-1933). A couple of his quotes stuck in my mind:

  1. So allow me to be honest and tell the truth about our age and its people.
  2. A portrait is your mirror. It's you.

Quotes can be deceiving– we don't know the circumstances under which they were uttered. I'm going out on a limb anyway to reflect on the paradoxical nature of these two statements, and how they apply to my photography practice.

For me, a portrait is a balancing act between my perception of the subject, my own experiences and prejudices, and the subject his/herself. It's like a dance with me playing the role of the lead. Sitters may or may not agree to follow my direction with the picture, they may have suggestions of their own. I am aware of my power as a photographer and consider time with my subjects as a gift. Above all, I hope my portraits reflect back humanity and dignity, as Sander's do.