David Kasnic shared his work with me a few months ago, and we had a beer at a nice seedy Ukrainian bar in New York when I was last in town. He’s from the Pacific Northwest originally, like myself, and he is finishing a degree in photojournalism at Western Kentucky University. I wanted to ask him a few questions about this moment in his career and the pictures he has made lately.
Where did you come from, where did you grow up, how did you end up studying photojournalism?
I grew up in Washington State in a small town called Wenatchee, which is located in the middle of the state and is about two hours away from Seattle. I think it was probably sophomore year of high school when my best friend Evan got a point and shoot camera for Christmas and I fell in love with it more than he did. I mean, I think he liked it, but I was really into it. I don’t think we were really into taking serious pictures, just funny stuff. Pictures of friends mooning the camera, raising hell in grocery stores, mostly throwing things out of cars. Both of us were in this photography class in high school where we got to use both film and digital and I think that’s where I really fell in love with photography was in that class. I think the only things I took pictures of were concerts, skateboarding and gross shit my friends did, but I had a good time. I knew by the time high school ended that I wanted to start taking photography seriously, whether that meant studying it in college or not. I wasn’t able to go to college right off the bat because I kind of dicked around in school and never really took the right classes, the right tests, etc. After a year of hustling pretty hard at a community college in Seattle and working part time washing cars at Toyota of Bellevue, I was able to start applying to four-year schools. I applied to Western Kentucky University one day, thinking I wouldn’t get in, and a week later, my parents got a letter in the mail saying I was accepted. I’ve been at WKU since 2008.
Can you give some introduction to the pictures you have on your website?
Basically, I’ve been photographing my life for two or three years. At times I was focused. It wasn’t so scatter brained. I had a purpose of what I was trying to do. Mind you it was things like sex, drugs and rock n’ roll because that’s what I was influenced by. I grew up loving skate and punk rock culture, and I guess I knew even when I first starting to take pictures in high school that I wanted my first thing, project, body of pictures, whatever, to be raw, in your face, a depiction of sensational partying and a carefree lifestyle.
Are you going to be a photographer when you graduate?
I’m trying to figure out where photography and making a living will meet for me or if that will ever be the case. Am I going to photograph, work on projects and strive to keep making better photographs? Yes.
You said to me that you’re interested in moving beyond photographing yourself and friends, “personal projects”. Do you think this reflects anything larger about your interest in photography? There seems to have been lately an increased respect for ‘me’ photographs as an alternative to ‘traditional’ photojournalism of flying overseas to cover pressing international issues. Do you see any changes happening in the industry or the work of other photographers that you find interesting?
I’ve been influenced by so many different things but when I first started to really dive into photography, the photographers that interested me the most took me on a journey through their own life or of someone or the someone’s close to them. I think that was because of a lot of things, but mostly my age. When I had talked to you about this before I think I should have said I’m interested in doing something different just to change things up. I don’t really know if moving beyond photographing myself and the people in my life will ever happen or if it should for that matter, but I’m going to do other things as well to grow as a person.
I don’t really know about an increased respect for ‘me’ photographs. People have been doing that shit for years. To me, and most of the people I have great respect for, who are involved in photography in some way, shape or form, all photographs are equal, whether they are from home, a sporting event or world conflicts.
You mentioned something to me once about being able to ‘morph’ and fit in wherever you are photographing .. skate people, drugs, music. Maybe these mirror ‘phases’ in your own life. Tell me something about this idea, of how you personally work well with your subjects, how close you become to them.
I think my relationships with the people inside my photographs add something for sure, I think but I’m not sure if the work I’ve done so far tells a “story”. I think I’ve been fortunate to get help from other photographers and editors to get my collection of photographs on one topic from the past three years edited into different narratives but I’m not sure if they’re stories per say.
What do you take from multidisciplinary approaches to inspiration? What are you listening to or looking at that we should know about but probably don’t?
I think people should know about Austin Koester. He goes to school with me but this isn’t a friend plug. His work is great.
So is there a title that fits for these portfolios?
I think “Give Me Time” suits it best. Being that I’m still really trying to find myself behind the camera, and I think that comes across in my pictures, that I’m really still trying to figure what I’m trying to say.