Mikael Kennedy

YHBHS Interview
Mikael Kennedy

You say it's coming , but I can't see it at all...
You know me well, but I don't know you at all
-Eleanor Jackson

I love that dawning of the moment inside of awe that you are talking about.
I get it often, it's the moment of cresting the hill and watching the world
open up infront of you.

-Mikael Kennedy


Mikael Kennedy's photographs have been on my desktop for many months now. I pull them up from time to time, instantly getting lost in their hazes of color, their calmness, and the stillness of those photographed. There is this sense of familiarity of place and spirit.

Perhaps it is the landscape that seems so familiar to me, or maybe its more. I've been to all of these places, at least in my dreams... Maybe its the search, the trip into the unknown that hits a note with me.... Either way, I'm honored Mikael Kennedy was so kind when I asked him some questions..... Thank you Mikael....

- David John

altwater River Guard: June 4 - July 30 2010
37A gallery here..

"Kennedy’s landscape photography in recent years has been likened to the work of the Hudson River Painters; described as a blending of the sublime and the vision of Trancendentalists, it is a view of man’s search for his place in nature. Drawing upon the classic myth of The Odyssey’ for its’ title, The Odysseus presents us with the vision of a solitary man on a quest for Home. In Kennedy’s vision of the world, Home becomes more of an emotion, and a sense of place rather than any one physical destination."

Talk about your practice when you develop a body of work? Are you traveling to photograph, or are you photographing to travel?

I would say the projects more or less develop organically. It will become a combination of what I'm reading, listening to, thinking about, as I travel. The Odysseus began on a mountain in New Mexico when I was hiking through the snow with some friends, we had all converged on this small old commune for a few weeks to read, visit, drink whiskey, and explore the high desert. Every moment is a summation of the moments that came before it, so even that moment related to the dark and lonely lights when I would wander the streets of New York City looking for something and not finding it. With the Polaroids I am photographing my life which includes a lot of traveling and with The Odysseus I would say I am photographing an elevated vision of what I see when I travel.


In a past life, you were?

You know I don't know but I have this weird since that this is the last one for me, there is this burning need to do and experience everything, because I feel like I'm not coming back.

There is a very strong feeling of This is it, this is all I've got.

I read Spalding Gray's "Impossible Vacation" at a young age, and it really brought up the idea that home is inside yourself. There's no fucking escape! Where is home to you, and what does home mean?

I've never heard of that book, I will go try to find it today when I'm out in the city. Home in a traditional sense was always a tricky thing in my life, and it finally completely dissolved for me when I was about 20. Home has become a very important thing to me, possibly through the lack of. I think a travellers home is extremely important, it contains all the memories of their travels, the things they brought back with them, relics of adventure. It's like a bandits cave, hidden, full of treasure.

Joseph Campbell talks about in his writing, how the journey or the quest isn't completely unless you come back, how it takes the full cirlce, and that you have to bring something back that the real world is lacking, to share. Home has taken many forms over the years for me, at one point some very dear friends of mine Mandy & David Lamb's house became my home, for many years I could just show up in whatever city they were in and know that I had a place to rest and lay my head.

To me home is a place to rest I suppose. Living in NYC your physical home is such an important thing to me because I feel like your senses are constantly assaulted here so you need a safe space to go sit and be alone and feel at rest in. I often feel most at home though when I am OUT, walking around strange places, in the hills.

Your polaroids are about travel, a sense of roaming and almost a search for home. Any places that stick out in your recent memory that have meant a lot to you during your travels? Any moments when you are like, "fuck, this is what the search is about!"

I love that dawning of the moment inside of awe that you are talking about. I get it often, it's the moment of cresting the hill and watching the world open up infront of you. There is one of my photographs from The Odysseus that I call 'crossing into california' which is one of those moments.

I've been really curious about peoples moments of inspiration if they can pinpoint when and idea was born? If they knew where they were.

The Odysseus actually began with this image:

Those moments can exist anywhere though, sometimes I get them sitting on my friends porch.


Particular artists / writers that inspires you and your work?

I've been reading a lot Jospeph Campbell & Carl Jung: for their discussions of symbolism and myth, I recently began studying both on the idea that I am constructing these stories and I wanted to understand at the base level how powerful they could be. Karen Blixen's Out of Africa, Herman Hesse's Demian is a book that sent me on a weird journey that I would say lasted 6 or 7 years. Calvino's Invisible Cities, Richard Braughtegan's work, I've been reading a lot of historical non fiction about the US, things like Daniel Boone's biography, the history of the settlement of the west. Allen Ginsburg is a big one. I used to read a lot of anarchist and situationist literature when I was younger, I think that had a lot to do with my current value system for life and how it should be an adventure.


Your desert island music disc series : 3 albums you are bringing......?

My answer will change tomorrow but today it': Brown Bird - Devil Dancing, Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come, & Willie Nelson's - Greatest Hits. That is hard question. Also when I am out in the wilderness I like to turn off my phone, and try to not interact with technology other than my camera. So maybe it's a moot point, maybe I wouldn't want any if I was on an actual desert island. desert island music disc series : 3 albums you are bringing......?

Your means of transportation on these trips is?

It began in a subaru till the clutch snapped in half, then it was some hitchhiking, a lot of long bus rides, an old lobster boat, some air planes here and there, a lot of tours with bands in whatever they were driving, and now it is a blue 1995 Chevy G20 with a V8 and a bed in the back. Someday I'd like to just walk, spend a summer walking around the US, I feel like I miss some much when I'm driving sometimes.


Mikael Kennedy (b. 1979 Vermont, U.S.A.)

Mikael Kennedy is an artist living and working in New York City. His Polaroid work has been widely exhibited and published in the US and abroad. Kennedy’s Polaroids are represented by the Peter Hay Halpert Fine Art Gallery in New York City and recently the subject of a solo show at the historic Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Kennedy’s Polaroid work has gathered international attention with Kennedy exhibiting at the International Polaroid Symposium in Cardiff, Wales this year where he was invited to lecture on his practice and motivation as an American Artist.

YHBHS Interview
Mikael Kennedy

previous posting on
Kennedy's work here..

more here