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Meeting Kino for the first time felt like coming home. I had returned to Rome for the first time 18 years after I had lived there as a much younger wanderlust me. I had come for the sole purpose of making photos. When I saw an Airbnb experience to shoot Rome with a pro, I booked a class for the next day. That’s how I met Kino!
She is an American living in Rome, and shares my passion for travel and photography. I had so many questions for her, and wanted to keep on chatting after hours of exploring Rome together. So, I was so happy to be able to do this interview with her.
Bryn: Most of the photographers who I’ve been meeting specialize in documentary photography. But when I met you, I was really interested, because you talked about time lapse photography and showing place in a way that I had never talked with someone about before. I realized that you could teach me a lot about something that I don’t know much about. Then when I saw your work, it was absolutely beautiful.
Kino: Oh, that’s way too nice, thank you.
Bryn: And I tell you, every time I see one of your photos, it really makes me want to get back to Italy.
Kino: [Laughs] I’m going to cry.
Photo Credit: Kino Alyse in Rome
Bryn: Oh my gosh, of course!
Kino: I think that success as a photographer, especially a landscape and architectural photographer, I’m going to cry seriously, I think the success is born when you make somebody want to go to that place.
Bryn: Yeah, and you are totally doing that for me. But I can’t imagine that it was a short road to get to where you are. Do you want to talk about how you got into photography and what interested you first about it?
Kino: Honestly, it’s a little embarrassing, because I’ve only been seriously taking photos for under a year. My dad was a photographer, but didn’t influence me to get into photography. He did influence me as an artist, however. Long story short, I haven’t seen my dad since I was 13. My parents’ divorce influenced him negatively, turning his anger on me and my brother, so I left.
He was a photographer, however, and I grew up with an appreciation for the liberal arts through what he exposed me to, ironically. He had a darkroom, and I liked to help expose negatives as a kid.
I grew up around photography, but I didn’t develop an appreciation for it really beyond the aesthetic of art.
But a year and a half ago, I got out of an abusive relationship, and I firmly believe that from all negative things come positive results. My ex told me that I have an “eye” for photography. I don’t believe that exists, the “eye,” but it did solidify a need within me to create and not be perfect.
I’ve been a perfectionist all of my life, afraid to share any art that I’ve created, but going through abuse woke up a sense of apathy in me. Not everything is supposed to have laced-up shoes and a pristine bow tie. There is beauty in imperfection.
Bryn: It’s surprising to me when you say that you’ve only been doing this for a year and a half, because your work is absolutely beautiful! I wonder how you got to where you are? You must have picked up a lot growing up, or you were very smart in going to high quality learning resources right away.
Kino: I think it’s way more about the resources, because I understood the exposure triangle, and F-stop, some compositional laws, things you can pick up from other genres of art. I bought my first DSLR in 2013, and taught myself how to use it. I never used automatic mode. I got my camera, and I said “I’m going to learn how to actually use this.”
I guess I got to skip a bunch of steps, because I learned how to use a DSLR a few years ago. But it wasn’t interesting to me - the work was imperfect, so I was afraid of sharing, and I never found a passion with models or specific locations. Urban exploration was an interest, but that’s another story. But I did love the editing process!
The past year has been intense study, looking at other photographers, and trying to figure out how they do this and how they edit that, and why this photo is a good photo. Popular photography tends to fall within a trap of vibrant colors, with in a human element, but most of it is ultimately forgettable. I want my work to stick.
Bryn: What would you say your goal in photography is right now?
Kino: I think art is a personal journey as it develops through your growth. I don’t see that happening in popular photography, because it’s split toning and throwing a person in there, and getting a million likes, where influence is the important element, not creation, not communicating self.
An artist might develop their style, but that style might not communicate anything about the artist, nor does it evolve with the artist. Picasso had a blue period ‘cause, well, he was blue. Do trending artists understand color theory and an emotional use of color? Not always. Cool for the sake of cool. I appreciate honesty and passion. Not everyone looks for that, and that’s fine. Part of the human conversation is extrapolating two perspectives from the same source.
Photo Credit: Kino Alyse in Cinque Terre
Bryn: And what would you say that you are concentrating your photography on now? What is your favorite thing to photograph these days?
Kino: My favorite thing is definitely landscapes. I live in Rome now and I’m excited to move somewhere with closer access to mountains. Although Lazio has many hills, much of it is covered in thick forest. It’s great for practice, but I’m itching for mountains like where I grew up, just under the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Bryn: And what would you say that you personally get from photography?
Kino: Actually, for me, photography has been mostly internal. Like I said, I started photography out of abuse, and it has been a way for me to cope and start seeing the world innocently again. Because, when I got out of the relationship, I was mentally battered, a totally different person. I remember my mom mentioning that my behavior wasn’t like me, constantly anxious and hesitant…. Do you know what gaslighting is?
Bryn: Unfortunately, yes. (As an aside, I recently sent this Psychology Today article on gaslighting to a friend, so that she could be more aware.)
Kino: My ex gaslit me. I got away after the abuse thinking that people that I loved were my enemies and strangers are people that I can’t talk to, because they are going to hurt me. Photography has been a way for me to break out of that, and be more comfortable talking to people again.
I’m still developing my own approach when asking permission for a photo or candid photography. That residual fear from the abuse still exists. Anyway, the opportunities for me are mostly internal. But obviously there are external ones. I’ve gotten to see Italy, I’ve gotten to see different cultures and different festivals. But the primary slice of it was internal.
Photo Credit: Kino Alyse, in Cocullo, Abruzzo
Bryn: I think that’s so interesting that you talk about internal growth, and the coping that photography allowed you to do. In my conversations with other photographers, and in listening to podcasts, many photographers say that photography is a very solitary thing.
Kino: It certainly can be. Relating it to a video game, there are plenty of people who play socially, but I’m generally playing solo-queue. Plenty of incredible photographers post once a month on Twitter, but don’t have lots of followers. It depends on how you want to experience your work, and how you want to share it. No shame in either route.
Bryn: Would you be able to tell me who you follow, or who you admire in the photography world, so that someone who is trying to learn more to be a better photographer could check that person out as well?
Kino: I admire the heck out of Thomas Heaton. He also has a Youtube channel where he does ride alongs with landscape hikes, and he’s just a genuine guy who loves the art that he does. And he’s honest about it too.
Bryn: His work is absolutely beautiful, I’m looking at his Instagram now.
Kino: He’s criminally under-followed.
Bryn: When I look at your Instagram, your work makes your subjects look like a painting. Do you want to talk about your process?
Kino: I will research festivals and events about two months in advance, and put together a list. I’ll put everything in priority of what I want to see. Although some events are jobs, I still want to have a sense of excitement for it, and looking ahead is a sort of… pre-hype.
If I’m going for landscape or architectural work that’s quite far, I may spend a good six hours researching the area and locations around it. I use apps like the Photographer Ephemeris to plan timing and weather apps as the date approaches.
Photo Credit: Kino Alyse in Rome
Bryn: For example, for the photo where there are fireworks over the Colosseum, what did you do in post processing?
Kino: That was actually the first time I’d used the gradient tool and I was very proud. Although, now I look back and cringe at the feathering. I painted over the Colosseum just slightly. There was already a lot of smoke there, so I didn't need to do much doctoring. I didn’t do an Orton effect like I usually do now.
Bryn: What’s an Orton effect?
Kino: It’s an effect that’s very popular for landscape photographers right now. I used it on St. Peter’s Dome lightly, and definitely for the one in Rocca Calascio. It’s a way of making photos seem dreamy.
Bryn: So that’s what you do! Is the Orton effect similar to exposure stacking?
Kino: No, exposure stacking is taking two exposures and stacking them on top of each other, basically an HDR effect. The Orton effect is playing with the levels of the photo, not the exposure. So, by playing with the levels, you get this interesting blend with the different exposures, and that’s what creates the effect.
Bryn: Interesting! I’ll have to check that out some more. Is there anything else that you want to add to this interview? Is there anything else that you want to tell people about your work, or what you’re doing or why you are doing it?
Kino: Not in particular. I’m in a strange transition period where I don’t feel entirely comfortable with my work. I don’t have a style, I don’t have interest in a following, and I feel like a self-inflicted outcast. I’m positive many artists have felt the same way. Not following the trends alienates your work from most social platforms.
I’d still encourage people to stick with their passions, absorb as much as they can, and, most importantly, practice. Eventually, you’ll find your niche. I feel childish wanting to be comfortable, because I’ve only been here for a year: I don’t deserve it yet. Be patient and work your butt off. If it’s a passion, eventually, the labor becomes a familiar friend.
Bryn: Thank you so much for such a great interview, I really enjoyed this conversation!
Photo Credit: Self Portrait by Kino Alyse
To learn more about Kino’s work, please visit her Instagram at @kinoalyse.
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