Kendra Coupland is one of our Top 30 under 30 featured photographers.
Here’s a little bit more about her, what she does, and some of her best advice about photography:
Tell us how you got started in photography.
About 8 years ago I was studying journalism in college, and working as a freelance journalist and writer. An unexpected opportunity came up for me to start doing some photography work for the paper I was working for and I wasn’t very good with a camera so I decided to take a night class. Turns out I’m a lot better at telling a story with a camera than I am writing about it. I had planned to become a full time photojournalist after changing majors, and started shooting weddings on the side to pay for my photography courses, but after a year or so I realized I was already doing exactly what I was meant to do, and that there was no greater story worth telling than the story of what it means to be human, and to love.
Now that you are one of Canada’s top 30 under 30 wedding photographers, what’s next for you?
I feel so blessed to be included in this list, I’ve poured my heart and soul into my work, and to be recognized for it fills me to the brim with gratitude. That being said, I do my best to accept this type of recognition humbly. I know there are always areas I can improve upon, always new ways to push myself out of my comfort zone. My future goals are probably not very impressive to the outside world but for me, they mean the world, they are: Be more vulnerable, and be more fearless. Recognize that every day presents a new opportunity; be it an opportunity for experimentation, for success, for bravery, for redemption, or for creative recovery. I just want to stay aware of that fact and continue to use it for self-motivation.
Also, I really want to learn to drive a big rig. It’s not photography related but it’s on my bucket list.
How has attending photography seminars or photo conventions such as the Canada Photo Convention benefited you as a photographer?
Before my husband Brad joined me and started shooting alongside me, my world was a pretty lonely place. I spent a lot of my days sitting alone in front of the computer editing, not really having anyone to bounce ideas off of or check in with. Attending workshops and conventions over the years has given me an opportunity to meet some incredible photographers who have inspired me, mentored me, comforted me, supported me, pushed me to get better, and just been there when I needed an ear. I have developed some really great friendships, and a really great support system for myself. I really believe that great art comes from those who are not afraid to explore the human experience, and it’s a lot easier to do that with the support of other artists.
What does it mean to you personally to be a young wedding photographer in Canada?
Hmm. That’s a tricky question. I’m not even sure about how to put my feelings into words. I guess I just feel an extreme sense of gratitude. Some people go their whole lives searching for a purpose. Looking for ways to reach out and connect with the world around them. Just about every time I pick up my camera I’m given the opportunity to connect on a very intimate level with people, often times strangers, during a very emotionally charged time in their lives. It’s not always even emotional intimacy. I get to connect in a very physical sense too. Sometimes clients are literally physically naked in front of me; sometimes they get swept up in the romance of a moment and things get a little steamy.
Not only do I witness this kind of incredible human intimacy, but I get to mirror it back through my work. I get to say this is how I feel about the world around me. I am always so grateful to have people trust me with that kind of intimacy. It changes your perspective, being so close with people all the time. Some people go their whole lives without ever leaving their comfortable little box, without ever really witnessing what love looks like outside of their own preconceived notions about it. Just about every weekend I get to witness a new way to love. It’s a powerful thing, I’m grateful to have experienced it from a young age because it’s molded me into who I am.
Tell us about a pinch-me moment that you had where you just couldn’t believe that this became your life.
Ah, that is a complicated, emotional, dramatic story, that would require great vulnerability on my part, ask me in an intimate setting and I’ll gladly divulge.
But for the sake of the interview I’ll admit I actually have a little pinch me moment after every proofing session as we close up the studio. There is something about seeing clients leave happy, and closing up shop that just gets to me. Just looking around the studio in the dark, knowing I’ve worked to create the life I’ve always dreamed about – it just gets me right in the feels.
What’s one thing you would say to another photographer that’s just getting started?
It’s just art. Your life doesn’t depend on it. Always try your best, but know art is allowed to suck. If you can’t give yourself permission to suck then here’s mine: It’s okay for your art to suck (and for mine to suck too). So now that you have permission to make some crappy art go ahead and experiment. Try new things that scare the hell out of you. Try things that give you a bit of anxiety. Try things that you don’t think you know how to do. Put the camera down. Paint, dance, write music, read a book, go to the theater, or art gallery. Make a clay bowl – try all types of art – suck at all of them! Doesn’t matter if you fail, ‘cause it’s okay to suck anyways. We all suck at art sometimes (I probably take 1000+ shitty garbage pictures that never see the light of day for every award winning image I’ve shot), so don’t be afraid of it. Any photographer out there who acts like solid gold comes out of the camera every time they push the shutter is a filthy liar, and they probably go home at night and cry into a secret pile of crappy art. Don’t let them shake you. Every time you fail you leave behind a blueprint for the next piece with instructions about how to make it better. If you can’t read your blueprints get a professional critique. Once you can get to a place that you feel good and fearless about sucking, and start looking forward to those blueprints, you’re probably going to surprise yourself with all sorts of awesome unexpected stuff you didn’t even know you had in you.
To see more of Kendra’s work, check out her website here.