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Seismic Interview: With Kristen Blush

August 13, 2010

On seismic-sound.com its not only about the music, it’s also about the people who are behind the music. I think the roles that these people play in the music scene can be just as pertinent in the music scene as anything else. It’s kind of a family of sorts; we all basically work together to put Seattle music on the map. That’s why I wanted to spotlight photographer extraordinaire Kristen Blush. She’s been a fixture in the Seattle scene as long as I’ve been hitting it. Lending her talent to everything from house parties to national publications … so I wanted to chat with her and ask her some questions about life behind the lens,  a little insight into her youth, and maybe even coax some good juicy tidbits out of her.

Since Blush isn’t your real last name, can you tell us how you came up with it? I had created my brand Blush Photo with a girlfriend in Portland ages ago. The Kristen Blush thing came about when I left Sound Magazine to work with The Stranger last year. The Stranger’s Editor, Christopher Frizzelle, stuck me with the name. I think he wanted me to have some sort of pen name exclusive to the Stranger. My mother once suggested I change my name legally. I don’t think I would ever do that because my actual name has an “X” in it. Which is fucking awesome.

Do you remember your first infatuation with a camera? Not really. I think my dad’s interest in photography sparked mine. My sister has a story about me in the 2nd grade where I set up a portrait of her and her friend Matt Bussman at her 6th grade graduation. I don’t remember that, but it’s a cute thought. I had permed hair.

Was there a definitive moment when you knew you wanted to be a photographer? Kinda, or maybe more like a turning point where I realized I had to pick a career.  I spoke with a college recruiter during my junior year of high school (somewhere around 1998), and discussed the possibility of making photography a livelihood. When I reported back to my parents, they were very supportive. In fact, they made it possible for me to attend school at the Art Institute.

What is your prized possession when it comes to camera equipment? My wide-angle lens. A friend purchased it for me years ago when I was broke. He said it was a gift for the sake of art. It was a very generous act, and I think about it a lot.

Was there a certain photographer that profoundly affected your style or simply you? There are so many photographers who have influenced me. Jim Bryant was my mentor when I was a teen. I’d say he has created the most important ripple in my photography world. His wife Amy built me a website for my pictures when I was 16…that was 1997. Not a lot of young people had their own website then. Jim is still shooting in the Northwest and continues to inspire me.

I read you shot Annie Leibovitz while she did a panel at EMP, what goes through your mind when shooting one of the best living photographers in the world? Or could you careless? Not only did I snap her photo, but she insisted I take a copy of her book, and signed a poster for me. When I opened the book, she’d written “Kristen, Keep on.” Fuck, she is so cool. Yes, I cared about it as it was happening, and I still think she’s one of the most interesting people I have ever met. Right up there with Lou Reed and Elton John.

You remember who your first paid shoot was?  Jim got me a photo badge for Endfest 2000. The line up that year was awesome…I shot Green Day, Korn, and Deftones- my first concert I ever shot. Not shabby at all.  I also got paid for smaller jobs shooting for the local paper and refereeing pee-wee girls basketball. I saved my money and bought my first automatic, film SLR.

I notice at times you just start shooting “guerilla style” while dancing or whatever. You just set it to automatic and go for it?  My personality kinda runs the show. It’s usually a blur.

Is music your favorite subject matter or is there something different that we don’t know? I like photographing people. I get joy out of snapping pictures that make my subjects feel sexy and empowered. I think my work speaks for itself in that respect. A lot of my subject matter happens to be music related….but I assume that is because I’m a 20-something living in a music town, and most of my friends are musicians. I imagine this won’t always be the case. Can I call myself a 20-something if I am turning 30 next year?

You’re an opinionated, and strong woman…did that ever interfere with a job while working with some of these large corporations? I believe I am quite open-minded and professional, rather than opinionated. Strong … very. My strength comes from my mother without a doubt, and has gotten me in and out of a lot of shit. I’m really lucky.

Biggest peeve when shooting? Snotty, arrogant photographers. I should publish a book called, “Photo-Pit Etiquette For Dummies”.

Would you agree that learning how to use your camera is like the first time having sex…it’s very much trial and error, and getting to know your “body”? If that were the case, then it would be the other way around. I was 16 when I began shooting, and very much not having sex. At age 29, it’d be funny to talk to a 16-year-old Kristen about sex. She’d probably blush and run away.

What Seattle bands really trip your trigger these days? Macklemore, Mash Hall, Champagne Champagne.

What are Blush’s ultimate aspirations? You’ll hear about it when it happens. Soon.

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