by Julia Cardi
We take this profile in a slightly different direction than previous style profiles and focus on Kristen’s vibrant photography work in light of her lookbook collaboration with Goldyn, launching Thursday, October 17th.
Kristen looks right at home in Black Eye Coffee, the 34th Street coffee shop in the Highland where we meet. A soft voice and quiet demeanor mask the quiet but fierce passion she harbors for her her work. But Kristen’s love comes through definitively with the way she begins to gush when I begin to dig into her inspirations and thought processes about her photography. A single question leads her to pensive digressions that illuminate her deeply-rooted creative influences, and the idiosyncrasies in Kristen’s verbiage reflect the vibrantly intelligent mind of an artist.
Can you elaborate a little bit on the wet-plate collodion process?
The wet plate collodion process was developed in the 1850s and was used predominantly through the 1860s and ‘70s. It proceeded the Daguerreotype and preceded dry-plate gelatin. Gelatin was used as a substrate throughout the 20th century. At first on glass as dry plate, and then on plastic, which most of know as film you buy at the camera store.
It is a hand-prepared process, where the plate is first coated with a collodion emulsion that is then soaked in silver nitrate to sensitize it. While the plate is wet and dripping silver nitrates, the exposure is made. The plate must be developed while the image is still wet. Because of the time constraints, the darkroom must be on location.
How do you make your inspirations come through in your photographs?
Inspiration is a difficult thing to pin down. It comes in many forms, at all different times. Sometime you just love something you see, and it makes you scream inside, and sometimes it slowly builds until one day it just, bam! Hits you in the face, like “Why didn’t I think of that before?!” Often ideas will come to me while I am slipping away into sleep.
Making ideas come though in pictures is one of the hardest things ever. I love subtleness, and really special unexpected things. For instance, I prefer no make-up. I find it to be equally classical and avant-garde. I also find it to be incredibly honest, which I love. On the other side, I love really over-the-top outfits with the most unpractical assets. My pictures are often pulled more by my feelings and ideas than by reality.
Talk a little bit about your upcoming collaboration with Goldyn.
After working with Vanessa [Barcus, Goldyn’s owner] on the first volume of the Scout Guide, I knew that she really liked the wet plate process. I suggested we do a collaborative project together with wet plate. After a bit of back and forth about ideas, we came up with the idea for “Crowns” as the theme. We are doing seven shoots with seven models wearing seven crowns, while showing off some of Goldyn’s clothes. The project does not show off the clothes in the most detailed light because of the short depth of field and long exposures, but there is a wonderful feeling of depth and strangeness emitted.
I am aware of the shock value of nudity. Of course, I forget sometimes that it may be shocking to some. I am more mesmerized than shocked by a naked form. As of late I have begun to avoid nudity as an exercise, to focus on other thoughts and ideas. I hope to shock and or mesmerize in other ways.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the wet-plate method versus other techniques you’ve worked with?
Wet-plate collodion has very few advantages. It is slow, cumbersome, unreliable, time-consuming, toxic, big, and messy. You don’t need electricity to do the process, which is one advantage. I love doing things the really hard, slow way. It makes life more real and in the moment. The wet plate has taught me more about photography than any other method because it’s so tedious. You have a very limited opportunity to make an image, so it makes you really look. It takes you 10, 15, 20 minutes just to frame it. You don’t have to take the same care with digital photography. You can take a thousand pictures in an afternoon, but can you get one good one out of it? Wet plate makes you more aware of what you’re doing.
And Kristen’s thoughts on the saturated photography market and the expanding definition of fashion photography…
It is amazing how many people are taking pictures today. At the beginning of the last century, only a handful of technicians knew what they were doing. But now photography is at the fingertips of pedestrians and artists alike. The best ideas and creativity are rising to the top of the art market. It is really exciting to see all of the wonderful things happening today.
I took a class in school titled “Fashion” taught by Cig Harvey. She, more than anyone, has influenced my vision of fashion. We were introduced to many big names in fashion both past and present. The most transforming idea I took away from the class was that fashion may or may not need to involve clothing, or a model, or either. Of course I love both models and clothing, but my understanding had more to do with the concept that fashion could be anything I wanted it to be.
While I was taking the class there was a Guess jeans ad, up near my house, where the models had nothing on, no jeans, nothing, but you could imagine them with “Guess” jeans on. I love when advertising lets you use you imagination, and makes you think for a moment.
I think there has been a turn to where art and concepts are more commonplace in fashion, and I am really excited to see where it goes.
A preview of Kristen’s lookbook collaboration “Crowns” with Goldyn:
Click here to shop these Kristen Hatgi Sink prints at Goldyn:
–ALL PHOTOS: KRISTEN HATGI PHOTOGRAPHY/HATGI SINK STUDIOS–