This started out as an interview, but evolved into a conversation, so I’ll try to format it as such. I’m leaving out some of my answers to his questions so I don’t steal the spotlight here. I want you to get to know Brandon better in this post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I found Brandon Kidwell’s work on Flickr, and then I read his photo essay, “I Am,” and felt like I could have written something similar myself. I had a hunch that we had similar backgrounds, and in fact we do.
Brandon is in the creative zone right now and its been fun watching what he will come up with next. His work actually influenced me and got me to finally do some multiple exposure self portraits as well.
David Pasillas: What did you study in school? Do you have any training in photography or other art mediums?
Brandon Kidwell: I studied English and Philosophy, but took a sharp right turn into Accounting and have been there ever since. I work in Corporate Finance so this is my artistic outlet. I have no formal training in photography, I’d like to consider myself a focused person so when I have an interest it sometimes borders on obsession. I like to read and study the foundation of whatever I’m involved in and find my way from there. I got my iPhone in December of 2012 and haven’t looked back since learning new things each and every day both my experiment and by enjoying the work and creations of others.
I AM Past
DP: I wouldn’t normally ask a photographer, or iPhoneographer, if they read (and if you do, what) but your essay has me wondering just that.
BK: Absolutely, I grew up playing in bands, reading, skateboarding, sports, and art in one form or another. I believe it’s all connected at the base of it, all passions and insight on life so it’s a very fair question. I enjoy Philosophy (could go on for days) but if you are asking some of my favorite authors Kurt Vonnegut is at the top of the list, lately I’ve really enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell (my analytical side) and have grown up reading Douglas Adams, the Beat Generation authors, Ken Kesey, I’d be lying if I didn’t say The Little Prince was one of my all time favorite books and I’ve really enjoyed Jonathan Safran-Foer lately, he has an honesty that borders on melancholy yet hopeful, very emotional reads. That’s just what I can think of off hand but always love sharing and learning about new authors. What about you?
DP: I had a feeling you were a philosopher. I studied philosophy as well, but bailed before I got the degree. I ended up studying a lot of psychology, philosophy, and eventually got my degree in early childhood education. I didn’t consider myself artistic at all, until I started teaching preschool. The kids helped me tap into the creative flow again.
Like you, when I focus on something, I get obsessed. I wanted to improve so bad that I taught myself just about everything I know now. I did work as an assistant for an award winning wedding photographer, for a year. I went to a workshop of his and he asked me to work with him since he liked my portfolio. I don’t think it was anything impressive, but you could tell I at least had an eye.
I AM Present
BK: Your hard work and photography has paid off my friend, your work to date is phenomenal. I started out chasing landscapes at golden hours but now find more interest in human emotion. A wedding photographer gets so much practice capturing emotion and moments, not much better training than that!
DP: Btw, I just stumbled upon this interesting read the other day that detailed the daily routine’s of Nietzsche, Kant, and Marx. I think I was on the hunt for philosophy of creativity, but have yet to find much on the topic. I’m wanting to do something different with my work, but I’m not sure how to blend philosophy and photography yet. I know studying up on philosophy again is the first step. While we’re talking books, I would highly recommend Mediations by Marcus Aurelius. Its one of my favorite philosophy reads.
BK: One of the things I love about Philosophy is the diversity and that in it there are so many contradictions on the way to a solution. I love it because it’s like an umbrella that covers all the other sciences that were born from it, Philosophy provides the ideas and concepts, Science and Math set out to prove or disprove them in one way or another. It can be both maddening and enlightening and if you’re objective about it, no one is wrong, the solution might not be agreeable but there is truth in the process! I’m a big fan of Marcus Aurelius but have never read all the way through Meditations. It’s like Walden, so incredible in small doses but so much to take in, like a tsunami to your brain, too much for me at one time. I go to them when I lack inspiration or want to spark my brain or simply have a great distraction.
Stillness of mind, peace to Heart
DP: That’s funny, one thing that drove me away from my philosophy degree was how hard it was to to actually reach an agreeable truth. I was actually drawn to philosophy because I thought it was the way to discovering the true nature of reality, and truths in general. I started out thinking relativists were ridiculous, and, in the end, I became one haha. I distinctly remember in Epistemology class, the professor was talking about how “the tree appears treely.” That was enough for me. I had to walk away.
I do have some more questions that people usually are interested to know, and I have a few tougher ones because I’d love to hear your answers.
What is your creative process like, from beginning to end?
BK: Lately my creative process has been to always take pictures and save them for later. I’m always siting on a roll of pictures I’ve never shared. When I have time, I’ll start with an idea or emotion, and pick something that mirrors that and go from there. Sometimes my images and edits are intentional, I sometimes go to a certain place to shoot something very specific. Other times my edits just flow freely and could be influenced by a feeling, a new app, a concept, a pattern, a song, anything that hits or intrigues my senses and then I’m done with it. I’ve lately been trying to get my mobile art out there as I’ve become more confident in it, but truly it’s all about the process for me. It’s therapeutic in nature, my creative outlet. I really don’t have an agenda to be an artist, I’d be coloring on the sidewalk with chalk if it was all I had. It’s how I make sense of some things an feel good after it’s complete and move forward.
The Stress Effect
DP: How much planning goes into an image?
BK: I’m not experienced enough to have a lot of planning under my belt. My family and work come first so time restrictions limit me to happenstance photo opportunities (most of which consist of me taking a quick detour to capture something I saw from my Jeep, I always keep a loose arrival time when traveling alone… You never know what you’ll see on the road to where you’re going) and some planned early morning shots. I’d like to get more into planned portraits and visiting some locations on a list I’m building in my head, but it will be as time allows in the future.
Existence vs. Essence
DP: What are some of your favorite apps?
BK: The apps I rely heavily on for my iPhone are Camera+, Filterstorm, Snapseed, VSCOcam, Mextures and PicFx. Others I really enjoy are iColorama (a powerful and creative app), Retouch, Repix, and Lorystripes is such a fun and creative app. There are many other fantastic apps but those listed above are used the most.
Devan’s First Snow
DP: What is the purpose of your art?
BK: To be truly honest, the purpose of my art is as a creative outlet. I’ve always been involved in art in some form or another. I started with drawing, then music, I played the drums for years, then DJing and creating my own music through beat machines and samplers, skateboarding and so on. Mobile Photography happened to be a convenient creative outlet that fulfills that need to create and fits my life right now being a family man with little time to spare. I hope that some of my essence is apparent in my art and I’d like to influence or spark emotion in my art but I don’t have a need to be known or understood, my wife is still trying to understand me, and I love her more and more every day for putting up with my silly craziness haha.
Dreams of Flight (Derek)
DP: What do you think you’re ultimately working towards?
BK: I think, I’m only working towards the great feeling of progression and accomplishment. As soon as I’m able to portray or capture and share something that will look as I pictured in my head, and it give someone else the same feeling and impact viewing my interpretation as when I experienced it, that will be success. I still have a very, very long way to go.
DP: Thank you for the great conversation, Brandon, I’ve really enjoyed it.
BK: I agree, this conversation has helped me put my intentions into words that I never thought about until now. Thank you for sharing yours!
If you’re interested in how Brandon does some editing, he wrote up a tutorial on one specific effect here.
Brandon’s website is brandonkidwell.com
You can also find his work on
Flickr | Ampt | iPhoneArt | VSCO grid