Kristina Gibb is a local Park Slope mom and member of our SSP family who happens to be a very accomplished and talented professional photographer. Specializing in portraits, she captures intimacy, new life and family in a way that feels so organic and “ethereal” as others have described. Let’s get to learn more about Kristina and her fabulous photography in this month’s interview!
SSP: Your collection of portraits all have a very unique style and feel to them - they feel intimate and have a very natural, calming and dream-like quality to them. Can you tell us more about your style, and how you are able to attain this? Who are your influences?
A good portrait starts by putting people at ease. Within the first minute or two, I like to get into the mode of making pictures together, so there ample time for creativity and collaboration. It’s a two way street between photographer and subject. Any discussion about the photos happens as we are in the flow of it together. Especially when children are involved, it’s best to just get started, because kids live in the moment, they don’t conceptualize about the photo, and they typically cannot imagine what they look like through the lens. It’s all about the interaction between the two of us, and the family, and that is where the magic happens.
As a teenager, when I started photography, I was influenced by family snapshots. I was obsessed with looking at our family photo albums, and spent a lot of time trying to “redo” my parent’s albums they hadn’t touched in years. Holding the little prints in my hands, and getting to assemble them made me fall in love with the medium. In college I was influenced by photographers like Diane Arbus, Rineke Dijkstra, and then later, Loretta Lux. I marveled at Lux’s color palette, and the feeling of serenity and wonder I felt while looking into the scenes she created with her subjects, all of them children.
SSP: It looks like you’ve been doing this for a long time! When did you find your passion for photography, and how has it evolved over the years?
It is funny, for my whole childhood and into my teens, I wanted to act in the theater. I got my first job at 15-years-old at a children’s theater. I relished the spontaneity of entertaining kids, and getting to be on stage alongside them. I was audience participation, so the kids had no idea what they have gotten themselves into, really, or what is going to happen next. I equate that to being in a photo session with their family! Having a background in theater also gave me confidence in directing people, as well as a deep appreciation of the idea of a tableau, and that understanding elevates the photo from being a snapshot. In high school, after 4 years of studio art, painting, and mixed media, I decided to sign up for photography, and I never looked back.
SSP: What is it about photographing people that you enjoy the most? What’s the greatest satisfaction for you?
The most satisfying aspect of photographing people is the connection you make for that brief amount of time. While we are all together, it’s almost like a dance - I am directing them, but I am also getting feedback by having to read their body language and expressions, as well as read the nuances of the relationships between each participant in the session. Based on those observations, I might change the composition on the photo right there on the spot. We work together for an hour, but then I take what we made together home, and proceed to edit the photos for several days, or weeks, even. Being able to make sometime for them that will make them happy, and they might even hang in their home brings me an immeasurable feeling of pride and gratitude for the practice.
SSP: I understand you are a mother of two. How does being a mom help influence your photography?
The answer to this question is simple: I know what kinds of photos moms want of their kids. Websites like Pinterest and Facebook are good resources also, as you can see the types of photos other parents and photographers are sharing, and what is getting reactions. Also, my kids are 5 and 10. So, I still remember the younger ages, but I am getting good at relating to the older set, too.
SSP: For the photography sessions with babies and toddlers, it must be challenging to capture certain moments. How do you approach these shoots with both the subject and the parents?
The first step in interactions with little babies and toddlers is patience. Patience with the children, obviously, but also with the parents. There is no time of my life I felt more imbalanced than when I had a little baby. I call on those remembered feelings when relating to the family, because it was rough, and I just imagine to myself that this family is going through the same thing right now. It helps. Toddlers are tricky because they can be very triggering to parents, and they are fast. If the parents see that I am down for whatever, and I am okay with what this kid has to dish out, then they relax, and everyone can have a good time.
SSP: What do you think sets you apart from other portrait photographers?
I would like to think I am good when working with children. I think when I can relate to the child, then the parents see me as safe and fun, and they loosen up and become super fun with their kids as well. Fun family photos are the best family photos, because they convey that sense of joy families will often feel while relating with each other in private moments, but are harder to materialize in front of the camera and an almost complete stranger! Those skills work in the moment, but I also think I edit differently than other photographers in post-processing. You mentioned the dreamlike quality - that is what I strive for in my process. It just elevates the moment that much more, and gives the photo a certain “je ne sais quoi” that will stand out in the Facebook feed, and look beautiful as a print.
SSP: Do you have a most memorable shoot or photography story that you’d like to share with us?
Since my youngest was born, I started a yearly tradition with the moms who were in my mommy group where I take photos of the kids around their birthday holding some kind of prop with the number of the age that they are turning. This fall, I carved a “5” in the side of a pumpkin for the kids to hold. It’s very meaningful to have a visual record of these kids from the age of one! I know some of the families have made a print to hang every year. We’ll see how much longer we can keep it going!
It’s almost trick or treat time! I don’t know about you, but we always struggle to find the perfect family costume (we like to dress up together with a common theme). Every year it obviously falls at the same time, but every year I find myself in stressed out last minute mode figuring out what we’ll be. I think part of the reason is that I take the day and dressing up VERY seriously – so I put a lot of pressure on myself! Last year my husband and I went as fisherman, who had just caught a crab named Sebastian (our son) and a mermaid named Ariel (our daughter). Before our son was born we dressed up as farmers and our daughter was our little sheep! It makes her so happy to see both of her parents in costume, she thinks it’s hilarious. And our son (now almost 2), will surely get a kick out of it next month.
In my search to find creative family costumes, I found certain sites that are helpful for brainstorming:
I thought it might also be useful to share my thought process as to how I narrow down ideas for our family costume. If you have a baby, what are your or your partner’s interests? What do you love?
Are you obsessed with monkeys? How about zoo keepers, monkey parents, or you could be trees (and the monkey is hanging on you)!
Are you an avid basketball fan? Mascot, coaches, cheerleaders and of course the baby star basketball player.
Tennis? A tennis ball, tennis players (add the curly wig and 70’s headband for added pizazz)
Do you love lobster? You could be chefs, fisherman, people with lobster bibs and forks/crackers. Your little nugget is your lobster!
Is Ghostbusters your favorite movie of all time? The ghostbusters, a baby ghost and a Stay-Puft man (they even make a ghostbuster dog costume if you’re getting your dog involved)!
Game of Thrones? Mother of Dragons/Khaleesi and little baby dragons….dad can be Khal Drogo or Jon Snow.
If it’s a toddler or older child, think about what their interests are.
Train: conductor, no crossing sign, different parts of train including middle and caboose.
Legos: different colored blocks, different lego characters.
Pizza: slice of pizza, delivery guy, a pizza box.
Where the Wild Things Are: Max and some of the silly monsters.
Firetrucks: a little fireman, a fire hydrant, a house on fire (put a big box around your torso and decorate as a building on fire or you can just be flames). The ideas are endless!
So what will we be? Well… so far she has expressed interest in being a doctor (I thank Dr. Cao and the awesome staff at SSP for her interest in all things doctors and science)! She has a scrubs outfit, daddy and mommy could be nurses and her baby bro could be wheeled in the stroller dressed up as the patient. Or, he will be a “baby doctor”, which she thinks is super funny. Another family idea we’ve toyed around is Moana, baby brother is Maui, dad and mom are kakamoras (cave-dwelling goblins) OR Tui and Sina, Moana’s mom and dad. Who knows! But one thing is for certain, we will look very silly and have a night to always remember.