I was excited to interview Kris for this month’s feature as I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him and have been a big fan of his work since I first saw his Watergate Deconstructed series years ago. In fact, I had far too many questions and completely forgot to ask about one of my favorite of his undertakings, The Post Office Project (link below). My bad. Hopefully, this interview will incite a desire to further investigate the excellent photographic work of…
What is your most memorable occasion that you were without your camera? Do you remember events or experiences without the aid of a photograph?
I think the most memorable moment I wasn’t with a camera was sometime around my first year at Corcoran. I lived in Frederick, MD at the time and I was at a coffee shop one night with some friends. All of the sudden this beat up pick-up truck comes flying down the street with police chasing it and it ended up crashing into the side of a building across from the coffee shop. It turned out the truck was carrying a bunch of chickens and they got loose. So all these cops were running around trying to catch the chickens and arrest the driver. Mind you, this was a few years before iPhones existed and I didn’t even have a camera phone at the time. It was the last time I went anywhere without some sort of camera.
It’s funny because with the photojournalism work I actually find that I remember less of whats going on when I’m photographing it. I’m so focused on whoever I’m photographing and their gestures and movements that everything else, often including what they’re saying, just sort of blurs out for me. I mean, I’ve photographed 6 or 7 State Of The Union speeches and I couldn’t tell you a single thing the President has said at any of them.
For me, going out and photographing is an excuse to have experiences. By nature I’m a bit of a shut-in. I’m perfectly content staying home and reading or catching up on my never ending DVR queue. However, through photography I get to travel and have experiences that range from riding around in Presidential motorcades, exploring abandoned nuclear weapons storage facilities, and there was even one time Iggy Pop fell off stage during a concert and landed on top of me.
What is your attraction to abandoned places and things? Why no people?
I’m not specifically attracted to abandoned things for the sake of abandoned things. My big attraction to abandoned Cold War related stuff is the whole idea of what it represents. All of the places that I’ve been for the project, missile bases, radar stations, nuclear weapons sites, air bases, etc… were all part of an effort that lasted decades and spent trillions of dollars to defend against a Soviet threat and to reinforce our ability to wipe them off of the face of the earth just as much as they could with us. When the Cold War came to an end many of these places that were seen as vital to our survival for so long were simply abandoned and sold off as excess property. I guess the fact that i’ve spent 5 years working on the project might make it seem like all I do… haha.
The no people thing is sort of a form of meditation for me. All the photography work that I do to earn a living is completely focused on people. Rooms full of people at events, world leaders surrounded by security, press conferences with lots of other photographers all trying to get the same pictures, etc… And all of that comes with hoops to jump through just to be in the right room at the right time, overbearing press handlers or PR people, endless trips through metal detectors and so on. Being able to get out of the city and just explore somewhere quiet where all of those things don’t exist is just so incredibly relaxing.
Who are some of your champions?
Without a doubt I’d have to say Walker Evans, Garry Winogrand, Lewis Baltz, Mitch Epstein and Dorothea Lange are the ones I look to.
What do you hope to be doing in 5 years? Where do you want to travel? What do you want to see?
I hope to hell I’m still taking pictures and paying my rent in 5 years. It’d be nice to get one of my never ending projects published as a book too. I’d love to get over to Europe and photograph the Cold War stuff over there. But I also love any opportunity to get away from the DMV area and just drive around and take pictures with no people in them.
Have you made any discoveries in your practice as a result of becoming a member of Project Dispatch and making work for subscriptions?
I don’t know about discoveries, but I just love the idea of somebody seeing my work and making the decision to subscribe to it. The work I push with Project Dispatch is my personal work and nothing from my work as a photojournalist, so it’s all self-funded. Whenever I get a subscription that person is directly helping to keep a personal project going and that means a lot to me.
If you could pick three artists from the Project to subscribe to, who would they be?
It’s hard to just pick three. But I’d have to say Allison Long Hardy, Frank Adams, and Rachel England.