I first knew of Christina Kennedy as the amazing flame-haired bass player of the indie power trio Elephant back in the early ’90s. Man, I loved that band. It was supremely lovely many years later to get to know Christina after I moved back to Albuquerque—now both of us grown up with kids and dogs and such—and learn that she has an equally amazing, if totally differently textured talent in photography.
I remember seeing Christina’s photos on Facebook a few years ago, including lots of iPhone photos—and I just couldn’t believe they were phone pics. I was amazed by the detailed feathers on birds mid-flight; clouds with practically tangible depth. The photo effects she uses seem to enhance, rather than diminish, the natural quality of her photos, which is a really cool thing about her work. Birds, clouds, shadows and people all figure prominently in her photos, bathed in natural light, in a sort of gauzy suspension.
Christina is a stock photographer for Corbis and Getty images, and has an Albuquerque portrait photography business, Pop! Studio Photography.
Christina’s compelling style is perfect for an Instagram feed, which she has maintained for several years now and has followers in the thousands. I’ve always felt a little lost using Instagram, so I wanted some insight from Christina whose feed is so engaging. I’m thrilled she was willing to answer my Burning Questions—and share some of her stunning Instagram images to boot.
Peri Pakroo: What do you use Instagram for?
Christina Kennedy: Just as a creative outlet, and to be inspired by others. It’s freeing to shoot with an iPhone because they’re tiny files. I don’t have to process them with Photoshop like the raw files I shoot for work. And I never worry about exposure or aperture or pleasing the subject.
What types of photos do you like to take with your iPhone?
Recently a friend of mine discovered my Instagram feed and said, “There are no people on your feed!” I laughed. I guess I use the iPhone mostly to create serene landscapes. I think I’m always seeking a sense of calm, so I look for that in my world. Some people focus on pet images, or food, or kids, but I gravitate towards quiet images of nature with lots of open space.
Are your iPhoto pics different from the photos you take with your big pro camera?
I use my “big” camera mostly for portrait photography. It requires engaging the subject, thinking about focus, depth of field, how the subject is lit, am I capturing them in the most flattering way, etc. And then there’s all the post processing of raw files. Taking pictures with the iPhone is so different. It’s spontaneous and simple, and I’m creating images only to please myself.
I look around for beauty in the everyday: reflections in a puddle, a hummingbird, a monstrous cloud…things that give me pause while I’m waiting to pick up kids at school or walking the dogs. And sometimes I’ll share that moment on Instagram. I love getting feedback from people in faraway places. People are in awe of our New Mexico landscape. Followers in Japan will sometimes make a comment like, “Do you live on Mars?” Our big skies and wide-open spaces look otherworldly to people who live in crowded cities like Tokyo.
What are your favorite apps or filters for iPhone pics?
I use mostly Instagram filters. Rise is my favorite. Other apps I like are Mextures, Magic Hour, VSCO, and the Retrolux filters on Snapseed. If you want to get really creative, you can try playing with apps like Juxtaposer which allow you to layer multiple pictures, creating surreal images. I made a fun self-portrait with Juxtaposer where my head is in the clouds and birds are flying around. But that takes time, and I don’t really have the patience to spend hours on a tiny image.
Do you meet interesting people on Instagram?
Yes! So many kind, fun, talented people. Singers, composers, photojournalists, farmers, political activists, parents sharing daily routines, joys and frustrations…it’s nice to have this connection with people all over the world. I’ve gotten to know IGers in New Zealand, Greece, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Hong Kong, Sweden, Japan…. The only time I get to use my Japanese [language] these days is on Instagram.
What’s your user name, and do you have suggestions for good Instagram users/feeds to follow?
My user name is Christina_Kennedy. As far as recommendations, it just depends on what you’re into. Michael Christopher Brown is an incredible photojournalist whose iPhone pictures of the Libyan Revolution have been published in National Geographic.
Theron Humphrey does super creative portraits with his dog Maddie. My friend and co-owner of Pop! Studio, Mary Hobbs, inspires me. Whitney Taylor makes beautiful pictures of her life with children. Cole Rise is always amazing. Finn Beales is a UK photographer who does gorgeous landscapes.
If you love birds, Jon Cobalt makes beautiful images of birds in Florida. For serene island imagery check out Ivan Colon. He does the kind of minimalist landscapes I love. And of course Ed Droste. Photographer and singer for Grizzly Bear. Super sweet, talented guy who is always traveling.
Any tips for using the iPhone?
Don’t spend your life staring at your phone. It can become an unhealthy compulsion, and the real world is much more interesting anyway. That’s my tip.
All photos by Christina Kennedy.