Photographer Profile: Kyle Cassidy

I’ve decided to do a series of posts about photographers I admire, people who influence my own work, and whose work I adore. It’s only right that Kyle Cassidy should be the first in my series, as he has been a huge influence on my photography. When I tell people about Kyle, one of the first things I say is that if I could shoot like anyone else on the planet, I’d want to shoot like him.

Photo by Kyle Cassidy

Kyle’s photography focuses on documenting American culture. His most recent book, War Paint, came out yesterday and is no exception to this theme. Yet Kyle’s work isn’t about documenting the everyday, it’s about recording the incredible stories nestled in the people around us. Kyle has an ability to identify the extraordinary in the world and focus his brilliant eye on those people and stories. He’s well known for photographing rock stars and famous authors, but Kyle also photographs the homeless man who stands on the street corner near the coffee shop. From documenting Occupy to addressing the issues surrounding gun ownership, Kyle finds these issues and sheds his light on them. Kyles photography is strong but stil impartial, allowing us to make our own decisions, or to see how our own judgements color each of his photos.

Photo by Kyle CassidyYet Kyle is not a photographer that is without humor. He has these glorious flights of fancy as well. He is like a journalist that occasionally writes magical realism, and in his eye the world is filled with superheroes, mermaids werewolves and ghosts. In his world, people fly.

It is hard, both of us being residents of West Philadelphia, not to see myself in comparison to him. As an artist, it’s dangerous, and not very helpful, to compare yourself to others. But when my own models ask me how they could get Kyle to take their photo, it’s hard not to see it that way. I treat the question like a musician speaking to a younger musician, but instead of telling them to stand at the crossroads at midnight, I tell them to stand in the street outside his house in a ballgown after a snowstorm.

I mentioned this to Kyle, and he pointed out that these people could simply HIRE him if they were so interested, but I don’t think that’s what they are looking for. These people aren’t asking how to hire him, they are asking how they can become one of the extraordinary people that he photographs. I understand the impulse. Standing in front of his camera, it feels like everything that is good and interesting about you comes to the surface.

Kyle often says that if you’re doing things right, eventually all your idols will gravitate to your living room. What he may not know is that when he shows up in my living room, I feel like I’m doing things right because he’s there.

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