Eye On: Mikael Kennedy
18 January 2013
Mikael Kennedy made a name for himself as a Polaroid photographer while tirelessly documenting his travels the last thirteen years. His travel blog Passport to Trespass showcases his adventures from "Maine to Wales, through Spain, back and forth across America, into the jungles of Puerto Rico, and finally home; a fine line of wild." Mikael lives and works in New York City when he is not traipsing the world.
How did your affair with the Polaroid begin?
It's hard to remember exactly, but I think I found an Sx70 in a thrift store in Massachusetts in 1999 and figured out how to make normal Polaroid film work with that camera. From there I just hit the road with it and never stopped. I had no plan with it, no idea what I was doing. I just liked everything about the Polaroid’s. As it went on, it became important to me that it was a self-contained process since I was usually broke and traveling, and I couldn't develop photos in a darkroom. Now the most important part of it to me is that they are one-of-a-kinds. They are less of photographs to me as they are art objects. It’s important that the photography I exhibit be unique pieces.
Is the location of your photos important? Aside from your captions and a few terrain clues, all of your photos seem to blend into one long narrative, partly from the iconic colorcasts one gets when shooting Polaroid film.
No, not so much. I like leaving the story vague at times. The details aren't important to me, so I just use a date stamp from a library to mark the day each image was taken. In allowing people’s imagination to build a narrative, the story carries more weight. I'm lining out the markers of the myth but leave the rest up to interpretation.
You've been working within the same format for 13 years now. Has the discipline of your process affected the way you view the world?
I think's it's actually more that at this point I might understand what I'm doing, and why, a little better. Some things are clearer to me in terms of what I want. I like things that have a history or a narrative that are carried with them physically – things that age. Like an old pair of jeans or an old jacket. I think now that my appreciation of all of these things is linked. It's fascinating, these objects that carry history with them. I think it's rooted in the same thing that I love in the Polaroids. The photo being exhibited or published in a book was actually in someone’s hands in the place the photo was taken. There is dirt on the frame, and that makes it more real. So I don't think that my process has affected how I view the world. It’s that I am beginning to understand what I am looking for in the world.
What kinds of questions have been answered through your documented travels?
I've never actually thought of this as something that would answer questions for me. This is just something to be experienced, whatever it is.
In an interview you once said that death is the only certainty we know in our lives. Your photos feel and are often described as "timeless." Are you after immortality through your work?
Probably on some level that we don't want to admit. We all have that right? A desire to make sure we continue on in some way, in the passing on of names to children, things like that. But also, there are no, or very few, pictures of myself in this work. It's not about me; it's about what's around me. In so much as this is a documentation of my life, it's not my life. It's a vision that I have of the world, in world I choose to exist in. I used to say that my work was to be a proof of a life lived, but I'm not quite sure whom I'm trying to prove it to.
Any exciting plans for 2013?
I hope so. A lot of my work has simply become about travel and exploration, and to try and see and experience as much as I can. Otherwise, I can't figure out what the point of being here is. So there is always a long list of places I'd like to go, and I think I'll get to a few of them this year. The Eye of Quebec looks like it will happen, back to Spain and into Morocco, Bucharest came up yesterday. Everywhere is the goal. In terms of photography, I've got a bunch of shows already on the books for 2013. I am really excited about two in Nashville - one where I will get to exhibit some of my fashion Polaroids, which I've never done before. And I'll have another book out in a few months called The Man Who Would Be King, which will be twelve years of Polaroids of one person. I think we are doing a limited edition T-shirt with that. I think I'm heading to the Everglades in February to go exploring with my friend Jeff Thrope. It's all exciting to me.
Learn more about Mikael and view his latest books HERE.
Polaroids courtesy of Peter Hay Halpert Fine Art