As a lover of all things artful and minimal, I was immediately drawn to the work of Kenzie Victory. She has developed a recognizable aesthetic, and I am pleased to have her share her journey in wedding photography, especially how she stays true to her voice without concerning herself with industry norms that don't support her vision.
Tell us about your career as a wedding photographer and what made you follow this path?
I always knew I was drawn to photography but didn't realize it until later. I would stalk the magazine aisle in the grocery store while my mom was shopping so that I could look at all the ads for big fashion houses. I knew there was something about it that I loved, but couldn't quite grasp what it was. Growing up, I dreamed of working for a magazine like Vogue or Harpers Bazaar. I would obsess over watching America's Next Top Model, and I never realized what the connection between all of these things was. It wasn't until I first looked behind a "real" camera that I made the connection. I was in love with photography. I started photographing professionally when I was 16 and photographed my first wedding at 17. This, of course, was not the norm so the thought of someone hiring me so young is still crazy (and I kind of feel bad sometimes for those first clients.) Going into college, I thought I would get a photography degree, but after a 101 class, I realized I did not have the patience to relearn what I had already taught myself. So I switched to a degree in Advertising Art Direction thinking I would leave my life of photography behind to work in an agency.
After a few agency visits, I quickly realized that life was not for me, but also realized how much I truly loved what I did. I was a little discouraged because I had put the growth of my business on hold during my years in college for a degree and career that I thought would bring me success and happiness. When I ended up not pursuing a career in advertising, I was heartbroken over the fact that I had spent almost 5 years of my life on something that would do me no good. It wasn't until I had people reaching out to me about my branding that I realized my love for curation. I think it was all that time I had spent in the magazine aisle growing up that started my love for curating a brand and it was my degree in advertising art direction that honed it. There is nothing more flattering than having a person tell me that they knew a photo of mine before they even saw who took it, no matter who was posting it. The first time I heard this I was stunned. But going forward, I knew this was my goal. I wanted to create a look and feel that could be recognized anywhere. The easiest way for me to do this, in the beginning, was styling details. A flatlay is a simple space that you can easily make your own. As soon as I started to see my personal brand in my flatlays and details, it quickly expanded into the rest of my work that you see today.. Looking back almost eight years ago, I never would have thought that my advertising 101 class would lead me to where I am now. I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to how to learn photography. Somedays I wish I had a formal education and other days I'm grateful I never had anyone teach me the "correct" way to take a photo.
What are some industry norms that aren’t the right fit for your brand, and what have you chosen to do differently?
In the fine art world, we've made a focus more on "getting the photo" rather than capturing the moment. Something that I've strived to do the past year or so is to get to know my couples on a deeper level and make sure that these photos, that seem like an obvious choice, are actually relevant to their wedding day and tells a story. For example, I feel that the getting ready portion of the day has been made into a Pinterest routine. Instead, we are talking about their situation. If Mom is going to zip the bride into the dress, we want Mom to actually help, not just stand behind her daughter pretending for a photo. Something that I've done with a lot of these moments that seemed to have evolved into posed photos is create a memory for them. When Mom is done zipping her daughter into the dress I tell her to stand in front of her daughter and give her a piece of wisdom on her wedding day. Most of the time this elicits tears and "you can't make me cry already". But something as simple as getting into the dress is turned into a memory between the Mom and daughter.
One other thing that I didn't even realize was out of the norm until people started to question it, was my use of off-camera flash, or I guess lack thereof. In 2016 it was my goal to increase my knowledge on off-camera flash, and as such, I felt like I had finally gotten comfortable with using it at weddings. What I didn't realize going into this goal was disliking something that I thought was a "necessity" for wedding photography. Throughout the process of really learning off-camera flash, I also learned how to minimize the necessity of it in my work so that I can create images I still love, without having to fall into the "norm".
What are new second shooters or assistants most surprised to learn about your approach on a wedding day?
It took me awhile to realize this, but I have a very minimal gear setup and I am okay with it. At first, I was very self conscious. My seconds would ask me which of their five or so lenses I wanted them shooting on, and when I told them about my setup (shooting only prime 50mm on digital and my 80mm on Contax), they were always surprised and a bit nervous. After years of shooting with zoom lenses for certain portions of the day and hating the result, I finally came to the conclusion that it is okay to not use that lens just because everyone else does. I found what worked for me, and I instilled confidence behind it.