As much as I love featuring writers on Creative Ladies, I also really love to feature visual artists who work in a medium that’s totally unfamilar to me. I’m really stoked to feature photographer Kally Malcom today! You can check out her work on her website, kallymalcom.com. She took the time to talk to me about her process, her inspirations, and the restorative power of naps.
What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.
I teach photography at a small liberal arts college in Ashland, WI. I’m also an artist, and I’m typically busy in the studio when I’m not in the classroom. My normal working day is some combination of teaching and mentoring students, making images, researching, sourcing things for images, and looking for exhibition/publication opportunities.
What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?
I’m one of those lucky people who has fun with my day job, but I have hobbies as well. I knit—though only rectangles (scarves). Typically, I hang out with my dog, read, look at other people’s photography, and spend time with friends. This area of Wisconsin has a surprising number of artists, writers and other creatives, so I get plenty of opportunities to attend events that highlight the work of others.
What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.
Interests and inspirations are abundant, and therefore a bit illusive. I’m inspired by memory and experience, by music and literature, and by the fascinating lives of other people.
I recently realized I’m deeply affected by place. I’ve moved around quite a bit as an adult. Looking back at the images I’ve made over the years I notice distinctive shifts in style and content depending on where I lived, and my general sense of satisfaction while living there.
In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.
Flash and substance.
How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?
Staring into space: yes. My process is multifaceted, not pretty to look at or describe, and shifts from project to project. Some artists work intuitively, and just see what they want to make, make it, and analyze it later. I am not typically one of those artists. My work is usually pre-visualized, intensely researched, and thoroughly planned. In the end, it is a coin toss if the image or series will shape up the way I envisioned, but they start with a concept and a plan.
When I’m working in the field I tend to shoot heaps and heaps of images…just in case. In these types of projects, I often cannot reshoot, so a focus on quality and quantity happens in equal measure. This work feels more visceral and unpredictable than studio work. When I’m working on one of my still life images in the studio, the process is typically slower and more considered. The objects I use are often suspended or otherwise manipulated, so that always requires some theatrics (and fishing line). Generally, these images are much more fussy and certainly more technical. I like both methods of creating and feel like I need both in my practice.
What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?
Earlier this year I was selected to present my images at a regional conference for my professional organization. All through school I attended these conferences and gleaned information and inspiration from the image-makers who presented their work. Being chosen to be a person at the podium was a tremendous honor and an opportunity to share my work and process with students, educators and other artists.
What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?
I’m a visual artist . . . I have small failures all the time. Make, fail, edit, and reshoot. Repeat if necessary.
Frankly, I’ve been turned down for exhibitions and other opportunities, which always hurts the ego. Every creative person who puts his or her work out into the world will experience failure from time to time. I do my best to learn from these disappointments and move on. The critique of “no thank you” from a gallery or juror can be an opportunity to edit, clarify, or stand by what I make.
Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?
What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
In terms of executing my ideas, I suppose I’m a late-morning to 10:00 p.m. creative person.
This answer has shifted over the years. In my twenties I was firmly in the “night owl” camp, and relied on the mixture of exhaustion and inappropriate levels of caffeine for creative fuel. The time between lying down and falling asleep each night is still a prime time for generating ideas and reflecting on works in progress, but I no longer work into the wee hours. I keep pen and paper close by to jot down my thoughts and wait for a more lucid time to clarify my ideas.
Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?
Meeting pals for coffee and conversation is always relaxing. Also, napping isn’t just for toddlers—I enjoy a good mid-afternoon snooze on Saturdays. Generally, my relaxation activities are not especially noteworthy or interesting. I dink around on the Internet, catch up on social media things, or binge-watch Netflix.
What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?
Here is my list. It feels a little surface and random, but these are the books that I’ve found important.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. All we need to know about life, human capacity and human failure can be found in that book. It is perfect. I’m not sure it will guide our creativity, but it’s my favorite novel.
Want to be inspired by a gutsy writer who had way more to lose by telling his truth than we do by telling ours? Read the text of Frederick Douglass’s speech “The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro”. You can read it here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927t.html
Kurt Vonnegut and Sylvia Plath really knock my socks off.
What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?
Make things. Spend the time you need to perfect your ideas and your craft. Be a self-editor, and find a circle of people you trust to critique your work. Offer your critique of their work. Get the education you need to do what you want to do. Pay attention to history, current events and the condition of others. Outward awareness and the ability to connect (at least intellectually) to the experiences of others will help you understand yourself and how you can contribute creatively or otherwise.
What’s your Creative Lady motto?
I don’t really have a motto. I could find one, but that seems like cheating.