I am a non-traditional photographer who is fascinated with people. I am a photographer who chases light, gets lost and finds joy where I am. My style is documentary, romantic, raw, intimate and evokes a bit of whimsy. But this hasn’t always been the case.
I started my photography business in 2011 by shooting super traditional weddings, making friends pose awkwardly in front of the camera with vintage suitcases, old chairs and no coat; all in the hopes of creating something magical. It took me awhile, but I realized that I wasn’t really connecting with my subject. I wasn’t telling a story, I was just shooting what was in front of me - shooting pretty things and not making the most out of my environment. In February of 2013, I sat in a booth with my dear friend, Brooke, and I told her I wanted something different for myself; a re-brand. I knew I had grown and needed a change. We started bouncing ideas off of each other when a few hours later, I remember her saying, “well, what about using your Instagram handle as your new business name?” Kaley from Kansas. Looking back now, it seems so obvious. It’s who I am. That was it.
Since ‘Kaley from Kansas’ was born, my style has grown exponentially. I’ll be honest, I feel as though I’ve had to work harder living in the Midwest - work harder to make up for the fact that I don’t see mountains or the ocean every day. I don’t drive on foggy tree-lined roads, stumbleupon snow-covered cabins or have the ocean at my feet. Kansas is my home and it is beautiful in it’s own ways. I have made some magic in the flint hills, on family farms, in abandoned airstreams and at local soda shops. It’s all in how you see the world. I wouldn’t trade my Midwest roots for anything.
The past few years traveling throughout the U.S., I can say that I have created my best work. Traveling brings out the spontaneity and excitement and I find myself looking at the world more romantically - with a sense of wonder. I enjoy gaining a fresh perspective and oftentimes, I surprise myself. I explore what it is to be human, to adventure, to take in the beauty that surrounds me and document it. People want to be moved. They want to experience themselves. I feel as though I can make this happen through my photographs.
I am so thankful to get an opportunity to travel. I have grown as a maker, an artist, a dreamer and photographer. It has really helped me become more of an explorer, a maker of photos – discovering who I am along the way.
When defining your style, there’s no better way than to ask those who have worked with you. Talk to those who have invited you into their homes, asked you to photograph the day they wed and the day they celebrate a new beginning. Hearing kind words about your work humbles you. I have heard kind words from the hearts of couples, mothers, artists and friends who have trusted my vision and allowed me to document the best moments of their lives – the mundane, the extraordinary, the mess, the every day. They’ve told me that my work is intimate, raw, and authentic – that I am an early adopter and innovator – that I draw people in – that they ache to be where I am – that they have never felt more beautiful. Not only does this give me ‘all the feels’ but it proves that I am doing what I was meant to – and reminds me of something that I was taught at one of my first photo workshops – the most powerful choice that we have as artists is how we spend our time.
I spend my time telling stories – letting others inspire me. Lately, my work has been inspired greatly by light, shadow, minimalism, reflections and texture. I'm drawn to life's oddities, windblown hair, foggy days, the in-between. I describe myself as a visual storyteller. I love interpreting people's lives through my lens. People are endlessly interesting.
Every story matters – people are just people. Don’t forget that.
Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “Why do you want to make photographs?” Look at what inspires you. For me, it’s desert tones, minimalism and light. I also almost always shoot in perfect symmetry. This allows your work to remain consistent.
Travel. Keep exploring. Your eyes will see the world in a different way in each place you visit, but you’ll start to notice similarities with what you’re drawn to. Ps- don’t be afraid to talk to strangers, or to ask strangers to model for you.
Be collaborative. Team up with a local florist, bridal shop or venue and try your hand at a styled shoot. Go to workshops – I learned so much and I was I have recently started and it has been beneficial for all of us. (Visit photographyworkshopreviews.com to find the right workshop for you.)
Kaley is a wedding, family and lifestyle photographer based out of Kansas City, Missouri. She often spends her time chasing light, discovering new music and fostering friendships.
To view more of Kaley's work, visit her here.