For our latest Hero of the Week feature, we shine the spotlight on Kansas-based film photographer and graphic designer Jeffrey McKee. Mostly inspired by ideas and the interesting people who have become part of his life, his simple yet sentimental portraits show how his desire to keep things “natural and fluid” fuel his drive for taking photos.
“Typically, I’ll have a camera with me; if there is something that feels interesting I’ll try to get a photo of it, ” he simply said of what his creative process and personal style is like.
Read through the rest of our chat with Jeffrey below to find out more about him, his work, his sources of inspiration, and some personal details that paint a picture of him as a creative.
Please tell us a little about yourself, where you are from, and what you do.
I am currently living in Lawrence, Kansas. The desert was my home for a long time. I work as a graphic designer for a beautiful little museum here called the Spencer Museum. Design is what I’ve loved for over a decade. Photography is something I started loving around 4 years ago. My background with graphic design probably fuels my aesthetic for framing photos.
How would you personally describe your style of photography? What message/s do you try to convey through your images?
There’s not really a message to my photographs. I like to shoot photos with interesting people, of which I’ve been very lucky to know quite a lot of them. Typically, I’ll have a camera with me; if there is something that feels interesting I’ll try to get a photo of it. When shooting other people, I like to keep things natural and fluid. Walking around, talking… these are things that usually fuel my urge to take a picture.
Which elements of shooting film are you drawn to the most?
The analog process is where it’s at for me. I have been a screen printer for a while, so using emulsion and exposure to make an image is something I’m drawn to. Shooting with film cameras and using actual film feels magical to me. Plus, the photos from film are something that you can’t get with anything else.
What would you say is your greatest inspiration?
People and ideas are my greatest inspiration, along with honesty, movies, books, and cats.
In this part of our interview, we get a little more up close and personal with our hero through a handful of questions about the people he finds inspirational, his tools of the trade, shooting routine, and more:
Name someone whose art makes you shiver.
Francesca Woodman, William Eggleston, Olimpia Zagnoli, Lukasz Wierzbowski (sorry, that’s someone + 3!)
If you had to choose a camera + film to shoot with for the rest of your life, which combo would it be and why?
If I could just shoot with one camera it’d be my Contax G. It’s what I almost always use, it’s so fun to hold and it takes great-looking images. The film would be something simple, like Kodak Portra or Ektar. Another camera would be the Polaroid Spectra because I love to see instant prints and it has a sweet flash for when there’s no sun.
If you could time travel to the past and be the assistant of a great photographer, who would it be?
I’m not sure I would have an answer to this one, but it would be the great photographer who has travelled the most. Or Andy Warhol.
Can you share the weirdest situation you’ve faced being a film photographer?
Not really. Any situation can be weird when you’re a weirdo.
If you had to choose a movie that defines you both, personally and aesthetically, which one would it be?
3 Women or The Shining
At Whattaroll, we believe that inspiration can come from many different sides. Can you write down and share with us a paragraph from the book you’re reading at the moment?
“I quickly gave a nod of agreement to show how completely I was on her side, against myself. The kettle was screaming. She pulled her hand away and poured the water into a Styrofoam cup of noodles—not appeased, just revolted by our affiliation. I walked away, a free woman on rubbery legs.” —Miranda July, The First Bad Man
Describe your shooting routine.
It depends; if I just feel like shooting, I’ll put myself in a situation where interesting things might be happening. It could be anything — even just a grocery store. Shooting with someone else means finding something that we want to do or see and then going there. Taking a photo just comes from that.
Speaking of portraits, who’s the face you’d love to photograph but haven’t had the chance to have in front of your camera yet?
1984 Madonna, always.
Who do you think we should feature in the next Hero of the Week section?
See more of Jeffrey McKee’s work in the link below: