JONATHAN CHERRY: What did you want to be growing up?
KRIS PAYNE: Everything. I wanted to be a meteorologist when I was in the 6th grade, and then all throughout middle school and high school I wanted to play music for a living. Then photographer.
JC: Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
KP: There’s always a ton of great stuff happening. I really like where Tina St. Claire's work has been heading the last year or so. Elizabeth Weinberg continues to refine her work and every story she shoots just is ten times better than the last. Megan McIsaac has also been doing some really great portrait work lately. I feel like her work has matured quite a bit in the last 3 years. I bought Bryan Schutmaat's new book and can’t wait to get it. There’s a photo of me with Bruce Davidson by my couch at home and I look at that a lot. I follow a ton of art blogs online and there’s always a bunch of really great stuff out there it makes me so jealous.
JC: What are you up to right now?
KP: I just released a zine of some snapshots I made while touring southeast Alaska with my parents. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s not my first published stuff, but it has been the most fun and the most rewarding so far. I have some plans for a larger release of something different this summer that I’m also incredibly excited about. Other than that I fix computers for people that make furniture to pay the bills, watch a lot of Battlestar Galactica, and try out different bourbons.
JC: Have you had mentors along the way?
KP: I assisted in New York City for a few years after school. I looked up to the photographers I worked with for sure, but it was half art, half life. I was young, man. 22 and fresh out of school, had barely lived on my own ever and now I’m in this huge, loud city. I never even wanted to be in New York, but it sure beat Boston, and I was living in Massachusetts, so, I just went. I worked for a lot of different types of people and they have had such a strong impact on everything. I remember one guy I worked for inspired me to make landscapes, and it sort of dawned on me (like a lot of things in my life) that, oh, I guess I could do that, instead of trying to do fashion or something. People make art. It’s a cool feeling when you start to realize that shit.
JC: Where are you based right now and how is it shaping you?
KP: I’m living in the Bay Area in Northern California. I’ve lived all over the states, and for a time I lived in a tent and my car. It’s strange here because I have this really stable 9-5 job and I’ve never really had one of those. I was freelance basically the entire time I lived in NYC and then after I had my Alaska sabbatical I worked retail for a bit, so I had this really haphazard life. It’s strange to wake up at the same time everyday and for 5 of those days do the same routine. It’s incredibly liberating at times and incredibly debilitating at others. It makes it so easy to make photos on the weekends or at night or early morning, but it’s also a trap that you know when you can do it and it loses all the spontaneity. I’m still trying to get used to it and see how I can work with it and in it, so for now I’m working on backlog projects. Shit I’ve been wanting to do forever but finances, or time, or whatever kept getting in the way.
JC: One piece of advice to photography graduates?
KP: I went to school for photography, but they didn’t really teach me what I do now. You’ll learn all the technical stuff, and that’s all well and good, but until you find something that makes you hit the button a lot, you won’t use it. Always try to have some sort of project to drive you, especially if you’re not working in photo.
JC: If all else fails - what is your plan B?
KP: My whole life has been plan’s A-Z. I just kind of go with whatever plan it is at the time. I gave up wanting to do commercial photography a few years ago, but lately I’ve been thinking about editorial work again. But then again, ugh, so much effort to make someone else happy. Making art just seems so much more cool to me.
JC: Is it important to you to be a part of a creative community?
KP: Most days I want to just be left alone. It would be cool to be part of some sort of group so resources could be shared, like gallery shows, or cool places to get good prints, etc. But I don’t think it’s the be-all-end-all of being an artist.