Interview Series: Andrew Kuykendall

It’s rock n’ roll hashed with a slew of hot babes and California dreamin’ of course. Fashion photographer Andrew Kuykendall works and plays with such passion, he’s the rebel WITH the cause.

He also happens to have a super hot model girlfriend we love and featured many times before, Kelley Ash, whom he documents Americana with, among other things… looking for treasures.

When back in L.A., he’s shooting fashion lookbooks, attending the best parties and schmoozing with sexy. Don’t you kind of want his life? We had a chance to catch up with a man himself for a witty interview:

Q & A

LF: What makes you tick / what makes you click?

AK: I get really bored with people preoccupied with making money above anything else. It’s really a sign that someone doesn’t have anything better to care about. Money is easy to make, anyone can do it. Making an impression is the challenge. Not everyone can make an impression. It takes personality. Gimmicks also make me tick. Artists who are obsessed with being a “brand” make me tick. It’s all quite boring… I also hate it when they don’t give me enough hot sauce at the drive through window. You’re already back on the road and there’s nothing you can do about it. The 7-layer burrito is now condemned to a bland existence.

LF: What did you do to get expelled from the Art Center College of Design?

AK: For the most part my experience with art school was very pleasant. You get to spend all day only worrying about the creative process and everyone pays attention to your ideas. I quickly realized  that you are paying for their attention (literally) and it’s not worth the cost. Not by a long shot. It was extremely expensive, even getting scholarships. I only went because I wasn’t sure how to go about making a living out of a passion. I knew after one semester there that I didn’t belong, that it would be more rewarding for me to get out and do it on my own. You’re required to take certain classes. I said screw it. I’m going to take the classes I want, not go to the classes I don’t want, learn as much as I can and push it until they kick me out. After a year that’s exactly what they did. I got expelled.

LF: Do you consider yourself a rebel?

AK: I suppose a rebel is someone going against things just to go against them. That seems like a lot of effort. I love what I do and couldn’t really live any other way. It just wouldn’t be worth it. I don’t think of myself as rebelling. I don’t think being excited and passionate is a rebellion as much as a celebration. Does that sound pretentious? Great, I hope so.

LF: When every narrative has been explored, how do you innovate?

AK:  I reckon that artists have been saying that for centuries and I think the same answer still applies: there aren’t really that many innovative people in the world. It’s true that there are plenty of people who are great at fooling everyone, and I suppose that’s a bit of an art for in itself. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors around but truly interesting and innovative work is difficult to not notice, if you’re looking. Personality is really the most important thing. It finds a way into everything that you do. I’m obsessed with travel, music, oddly-beautiful skinny girls, and the desolation in all of them. These things find a way into everything that I do.

LF: How did you and Kelley meet?

AK: Kelley was a cheerleader at a high school in New Jersey. I was at a football game with my wife and kids and saw her cheering. Her moves were outstanding: it was love at first sight. I told my wife I was going to get a hot dog (odd, since I don’t eat meat) and confronted that little gap toothed beauty. We ran away immediately and never looked back, settling in a studio apartment in Van Nuys… Actually, that sounds like an After-School Special. She actually just tried to rape me after one our mutual friends set us up. She has a thing for guys with red hair.

LF: Has being in love with a model changed anything about the way you shoot women?

AK: Yeah, I can’t sleep with them anymore.. Just kidding. I still sleep with them…

LF: Seems like you guys are on a continual road trip, and your journey looks absolutely effortless and pleasant… How do you feel when you get to a new spot and realize: “this is it – this is where we are shooting”? How much of your location scouting is planned in advance, vs. luck?

AK: I’m a huge advocate of leaving a large portion of a project to chance, or at least, improvisation. Of course, leaving too much to chance will just waste your time and leave to frustrated, not living up to your potential. It’s important to have a “blueprint” of what’s intended, nailing down the certainties and leaving the rest to made up as you go along. If I don’t give myself that freedom it’s no longer art and feels like a job. I’ll figure out where I want to go and be open to exploring. It’s pretty much like that in every aspect of my life, not only creatively. There will always be good times and bad times but I’d much rather be on the road while those are happening.

LF: Favorite piece of obscure Americana you’ve discovered during your travels?

AK: I love Albuequerque, NM. New Mexico in general has an amazing aura about it. I grew up for a bit around the Mojave Desert and find that area interesting. Other places like Nashville and Austin of course, Tucson, AZ and the surrounding areas. Las Vegas is one of my favorite cities. Of course not the strip and all that, downtown and the surrounding areas, the more desolate life that takes place on the periphery I think is beautifully strange. Although California is still the most interesting and diverse environment I’ve ever been. I don’t want to give away too many secrets.

LF: What’s the most challenging shoot you’ve ever been in?

AK: I’ve recently been shooting a lot of campaigns for clothing lines. Many of these are in studio and require being tethered while shooting, meaning the camera is connected to the computer by a cable, so your shots pop up on the monitor. This can be very challenging because besides being confined, everyone in the room, including the model is huddled around the computer or trying to get a look. It totally derails the energy of the shoot to have everyone trying to peek. Once upon a time people had to wait to get that shit developed.

LF: If you were to do any other job, what would it be?

AK: Professional gambler. Although I’m not a great player, I just like the ups and downs of the lifestyle. I’d probably just loose it all pretty quick and end up in someplace like Reno, hustling cocktail waitresses for change to play video poker at the liquor store.

LF: What’s your favorite piece of art – any medium?

AK: “Rain Dogs” by Tom Waits. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera. “My Own Private Idaho” by Gus Van Sant. Just about anything by Henry Miller, Francis Bacon, David Lynch, Glen Luchford…

LF: What gets you off – literally and figuratively?

AK: Artists that transcend their generation or era. That are interested in ideas, and in their craft enough to try new things… Mexican food also really gets me off. A good Pico de Gallo is excellent on everything and might be the best food on earth.

LF: What does California Dreaming mean in 2012?

AK: Difficult to say, I’ve been looking for it my whole life. It’s certainly more fun to look for it than to find it.

LF: How fast do you live?

AK: Too Fast for Love, like Motley Crue. Wait a minute, scratch that, reverse it.


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