Eric Kayne is an editorial photographer based in Houston, Texas. Kayne is a regular contributor to the Houston Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, and NPR where he sometimes works alongside his wife, radio reporter Carrie Feibel. Kayne spoke to ILTP just after a visit to the Sri Meenakshi temple in Pearland, Texas. If he wasn’t a photographer, Kayne would be a cultural anthropologist.

Best career decision?
Going into Photojournalism after a degree in Studio Art. All I could figure out was to start learning Photoshop. Went to San Antonio Community College to learn that program and started worked for the student newspaper. Later on going to grad school at OU was immense for networking and building momentum.

The OU program puts out a lot of talent each year – how have your fellow alumni influenced you since your time in Ohio?
They help keep me motivated. It’s cool to see how everyone is progressing in their careers. A few of them to note – Michael Rubenstein, Katie Falkenberg, Sonya Hebert (current White House staff photographer), Loren Holmes, and Jerome Nakagawa are a few of my former classmates that are still moving and shaking in the photography world. As a second year grad student, some of the first year grad students (and friends and influences) are Kainaz Amaria, Tim Gruber and Jennifer Ackerman, among others.

Most helpful part of your ‘education’ that isn’t photo-related
Cultural anthropology courses pointed out ethnocentric thinking, opened me up to non-western ideals, conflict resolution and non Judeo-Christian belief systems.

Dream assignment?
As cliche as it sounds, get in a Westfalia van and cruise North America for a year with an 8×10 camera.

Weirdest thing in your camera bag?

Latest Gear Obsession
Hassleblad for personal work makes me slow down and concentrate.

How do you stay motivated?
Following where ever creative bliss leads me. I watch a lot of independent films and documentaries, sometimes at the gym, and I read a ton.

Shooting Arcade Fire was a completely random call off a recommendation from the Houston Chronicle

First big break?
Shooting Arcade Fire was a completely random call off a recommendation from the Houston Chronicle. To make a long story short, I did some documentary coverage of the band for Spike Jonze’s short film “Scenes From The Suburbs,” co-written with the band, which they liked so much they had me shoot the  publicity portraits for their album. One of those images went on to be a finalist for PDN’s Ultimate Music Moment Artist Portrait in 2010.

Was there an Ah-Ha moment that led to your personal vision?
I had come into OU as ‘Johnny AP Shooter’ and grad school freed me up to be interpretive, letting a sense of mood creep into the story, layering an image, seeing light and embracing my strengths. My project on an orphanage in Mexico and another in an old folks home in Ohio improved my ‘seeing’ and access. High point was capstone class where you find, pitch, organize, research, shoot, edit, write, layout, and publish a story.

Who Inspires You?
Lee Friedlander, Richard Misrach, Garry Winogrand, Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, Christopher Anderson, Michael Rubenstein, Eugene Richards.

Favorite photo books?
Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue – Eugene Richards(saw a thumbnail of an image on a flier at UT and it was like someone shook me awake. So intimate and touching and ballsy).
Crimes and Splendors: The Desert Cantos of Richard Misrach.
Almost anything by Friedlander.

How do you define success in your career?
I’m happiest when I’m busy. When I have a viable project where every time you go work on it you make one great photo. On the financial end, being able to do this everyday and not have to take on a second job.

I’m happiest when I’m busy

Hobbies outside of photography?
Traveling, Exploring, and Reading.

Exciting projects in 2012?
I still love the moment and unscripted photograph. ‘Shipwrecked in Houston’ – (because I never meant to be based in Houston) photos of obsolete jobs or other anachronistic things.

Talk to me more about the Shipwrecked in Houston project. What kinds of people do you identify as shipwrecked?
I’ve put that project aside since we’ve last spoke (question initially asked several months earlier). I’m now looking into intentional communities as well as trying to line up subjects for a project I want to do on the Castle Doctrine.

What do you do to get out of a visual block or funk?
What don’t I do? Read fiction, jog, talk with my wife, my friends, go out and see movies, exploring ideas even if it means coming back with no pictures.

You’ve worked as both a staff photographer and a freelancer. What do you see as the ‘new normal’ for photojournalists?
It seems like the new normal is discovering your inner editorial portraitist because these days, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a lot of what I do to keep the lights on. I think the new normal is looking beyond traditional outlets for work. Many of my new clients are corporate clients, doing headshots, image libraries and stuff like that. In many ways, it’s a nice change as far as getting the bills paid.

 I think the new normal is looking beyond traditional outlets for work

Tell me about an assignment that went horribly wrong and one that went horribly right? 
The one that went horribly wrong was a feature story I worked on for The Ranger, the student newspaper at San Antonio College. A reporter and I did a story on a student kayaker. He met us at a bridge crossing way up high on the Comal. The reporter I was with was about 6 feet tall, 220 lbs. and had never been in a canoe in his life. The canoe the kayaker student brought us to follow him, by the way, was inflatable. To keep it brief, we were dunked twice, all but ruining my Nikon F100, lens, and strobe I had for about a week. Also, another canoe that was with us (an aluminum one – why were WE in the inflatable one?) got stuck in a hydraulic. All this in almost pitch black because we left maybe 2 hours before total darkness. What fun! To top it off, a deer smashed into the front grill of my cherry 1977 Toyota pickup on my way home. The thing never ran right after that. That assignment, to this day, has never been topped. It was almost like “Deliverance” but without having to scream like a piggy.

A horribly right assignment were the multiple gigs I got from Arcade Fire. That was just one blessing after another.

We’re all here for a short period of time, so why be a jerk?

What distinguishes you from other photographers?
I don’t take myself too seriously. We’re all here for a short period of time, so why be a jerk?

Which famous photograph/body of work do you wish you had taken and why?
Cocaine Blue, Cocaine True. It changed my life. It was so intimate and honest and well-seen. It still blows my mind when ever I think about it.

What will be your visual legacy?
Probably a crashed hard drive.

Favorite BBQ
Pork Ribs, Kreuz Market in Lockhart

Favorite Breakfast Taco
Bacon & Egg, Tacos-A-Go-Go in Houston

Favorite Margarita
Frozen @ Ninfa’s or Hugorita @ Hugo’s in Houston

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