Guestagrammer of the Week: T.J. Kirkpatrick
Momenta welcomes this week’s guestagrammer, T.J. Kirkpatrick!
Current job: Freelance Photographer & Videographer
Current location: Washington, DC
Connection to Momenta: Project Uganda 2008 alum & photo and video contractor on a variety of projects for Momenta Creative clients around DC
Tell us about your journey as an image-maker and how you got to where you are today.
When I was young, maybe 8 or 10, my parents got me a 35mm point-and-shoot. It was some cheap little thing with a fixed lens and rudimentary viewfinder—there was no focusing involved, just point it and hope the shutter button decided to work. But the experience of shooting, and then getting the prints back from the drugstore lab was really fun! I have a distinct memory from a family trip to Yosemite when we were out on a walk and came upon some deer grazing by the trail. People were gathered nearby snapping photos, starting to scare them away, and I ran up to get a picture only to find that I had already finished the roll. I couldn’t load it fast enough to get anything before the deer ran off. If only my struggles with user error had ended there…. But I never remotely considered that photography could be a career, and was actually turned down when I applied to be a photographer for my high school yearbook. In college one of my first roommates was Peter DiCampo, who introduced me to the photo lab and the idea that a person could make a life and living with photography. I started working in the darkroom and quickly enrolled in the Photo 101 class. The professors at Boston University—in particular Steve Haines, Joe Lippincott, and Peter Southwick—were very encouraging. Their stories from lifelong careers in journalism and push to improve my work guided me to the start of this path. Being fiercely introverted, it was revelatory to learn that this could be an avenue to approach and open up to people. I’ve been carrying the momentum through my life and work over the past ten years that they helped me create. I worked for several years after graduating at newspapers in New England both as an intern and a staff member, where the photo editors and fellow staffers drove me to be a better photographer and journalist. Ultimately, I think they helped me be a better person who could bring empathy and creativity to my work and interactions with the people I photograph. The Project Uganda workshop advanced the sense that empathy is key in what we do as visual storytellers, and the pursuit of a deeper, sensitive connection with others has been a driving force in my career since then.
What stories or issues are you most passionate about covering?
I’m always searching for connection—in a number of ways: personally, understanding the sources of my own emotional reactions; on an individual level between myself and others; and in a broader sense of finding the connections that people share. This takes different forms in my work depending on the project or assignment, but as I’ve been shaping my career over the last several years this is always an underlying element.
Where do you look for inspiration for your work: books, movies, authors, photographers, art, certain people?
Stephen Crowley and Christopher Morris were early influences for their sense of humor, sophisticated visual style and the ability to place meaning in images of what could otherwise be mundane scenes. I don’t have specific sources for inspiration these days, though I do find it in my Instagram feed, popping up on Facebook (for instance, a friend posted this recently), and the occasional blog (I really like the A Photo Editor blog). The photographers and editors I’m honored to consider friends are constant sources for support and new ideas, plus it’s exciting and inspiring to watch your friends succeed. I also enjoy the access to the wide variety of art available (for free!) at the museums in DC, even if the work isn’t photography.
What social media or news feeds do you follow regularly?
Being surrounded by politics means my social media consumption skews political—First Draft is a good resource, as is Twitter for breaking news. NYT Lens Blog and the Time Lightbox are great for their variety, and BagNewsNotes and the Duckrabbit blog offer insights (if, at times, contentious ones) on the industry.
What is one passion you have outside of photography that might come as a surprise to our readers?
I have a long history with mountain bikes, from tearing up neighborhoods (and occasionally my knees or arms) as a child to a downhill and cross-country racer in college, and even a shop mechanic for a couple years. I’ve built road and mountain bikes for myself from the frame up, and sold off more than I care to remember. It’s partially a general passion with being outdoors, but I also find a sense of peace riding on the trail. I’m able to quiet my brain a bit and focus, which in turn frees up space in my head for personal discovery and new ideas.
What can we expect to see next week from your “guestagramming” on our Momenta Instagram account?
I just wrapped up my second year at San Diego Comic-Con, which mostly means that I had last year’s convention to prepare for this year’s. This is an overwhelming place, with more to see and do than one person could ever experience. It’s pure sensory overload, which made last year pretty challenging. I’ve returned with clearer goals in mind and a feel for the lay of the land. And a large format camera. Though none of the 4×5 film work will be ready for Instagram, I’ll be sharing some of the portraits I’ve shot and scenes I’ve encountered with my small format—read digital—camera.
#seizethemomenta, and follow @momentaworkshops on Instagram July 11 – 18 to see T.J.’s amusing shots!
About the author…
Manuela Marin Salcedo
Manuela Marin Salcedo is a research and development team member and content developer at Momenta Workshops. Her expertise is in visual communications and social media.