Last week, we hosted a photography contest to celebrate the relaunch of NZ Photographer. We received the most stunning submissions on both our Excio app and NZ Photographer's website. We'd like to thank you all for participating. We value your work and want to share it with as many individuals around the world as possible - we believe that this, and more, is what your photographs deserve.
Our favourite submission was created by the talented Kalen Acquisto from Colorado, who is currently residing in New Zealand. Kalen's portfolio is diverse, ranging from eye-catching portraits to breathtaking photographs of nature. Her love for New Zealand is very evident in her photos, which glow with inspiring colors and inspire us to travel as much as we can. We're thrilled to feature her on our blog and hope her outlook on life and photography motivate you in endless ways.
Please introduce yourself to our community!
I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and have been living in Wellington and working for Garage Project for a couple years now. I have a love for good beer, going to gigs and discovering new music, cooking, surfing/swimming, travel and I am obsessed with outdoor adventure that photography inspires.
When I was just a few years old, dad would drop me off in my leotard at Grannyma Kit's after gymnastics, and she would hand me her 1981 Olympus 35mm to capture the butterflies and bees buzzing through her garden. This is one of my earliest memories of capturing the fleeting moments. My relationship with photography as a way to document life and connect with the natural world really developed with time as I gained a true love for exploring the outdoors and learned of life’s finite nature, but it wasn't really until New Zealand when I really committed to the art.
You take the most stunning photographs of New Zealand. How has it impacted your creative work?
It had been a dream of mine to live in New Zealand, a place that I fantasised about and respected because of the Polynesian histories, varied landscapes, and culture. But I was also drawn because I knew nobody, had no plans, wasn't connected and had to start from scratch to build community and purpose for myself. Photography was my way of getting to know these new lands, waters and people. My camera forced me to be acute in my unfamiliar surroundings and I have met some of my closest friends here through the art.
I have no formal education in photography. I listen to photography podcasts when I walk to work, spend most weekend nights watching photo videos, reading photography books, and editing photos. Most importantly, I take guidance from mentors I’ve met on adventures through this country. Most weekends, I get lost in the rolling hills behind Welly, camp along the rocky coasts to capture the first light of day, or bundle up on the south shore around a bonfire to capture fire light in the night. I have never been more obsessed with anything - photography as a way to connect with the world has changed my whole lifestyle.
I've never described myself as a landscape photographer, as those words seemed so bland and stationary to me. The sense of adventure that photography inspires combined with the ever renewed opportunity to meet people ignites me! I thrive when taking photos of people amongst nature, when I get lost in the wild and wait patiently to capture the fleeting moments, such as the sun-lit cloud intersecting with the lighthouse or a playful kiddo's silhouette at sunset. I aim to document our world with honesty and passion, using natural light, organic subjects....my adventures always form my vision.
If you had grown up in another country, do you think your style would’ve been different to what it is now? If so, how?
Well I find this question interesting. I grew up in the Rocky Mountains and I am surprised that my passion only blossomed when I moved to NZ. I reckon it’s because it is easy to fall into a routine and take your home, your familiar surroundings for granted. I look forward to visiting my own backyard one day, Zion, the Grand Canyon, Durango, Pikes Peak, Moab... and viewing it through my lens with a new perspective. Even when I return to the same coastlines and favourite spots in New Zealand over and over, it’s always a new adventure and my images of the same location take on a new look and feel every time.
Who are your favourite Kiwi photographers?
Esther Bunning and Glen Howey - both very different styles but they inspire me for similar reasons. Esther finds treasures in other's trash - she shoots using random objects, torn fabric, broken glass, and truly captures people in their own element but in a unique way.
I have been on a few adventures through NZ with Glen and he has inspired me to approach the world differently. He documented the aftermath of the Christchurch Earthquake unlike any other, which wasn't necessarily the safe thing to do but he went out on a limb to document the pure reality. Glen's free-spirited and ‘why not’ approach to capturing a point in time in the purest way helps shape my direction.
Neither Glen or Esther necessarily follow the written rules and I think that's often how you get the best results.
What advice would you give to the artists in our community?
Take the risk, never leave your house without your camera, own your own style, and get lost in nature! The shots I have been most proud of are moments when I crawled under the yellow tape, asked a stranger to take their photo, or kept hiking when I could no longer feel my legs. I believe my photography improved when I found my personal niche and stopped trying to make my work look like anyone else's. It is so easy to take your own backyard for granted - get outside, this country has so much to offer. I have been fortunate enough to explore the north and south island multiple times, and each roadtrip, even to familiar places, I discover new hidden caves, bright blue ponds, wildflower fields, and beautiful history that I have a deep respect for.