Life by Selena Photography
Montreal portrait & wedding photographer


The official blog of Montreal portrait and wedding photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle. Explore her signature photojournalistic style and stay up to date on her latest wedding and portrait photography projects here.

Blog 70 : Kitchen Sink Portraits Series

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Let's mark 2019 as the year where I finally have the space to explore my own creative projects. Any full-time creative will tell you that one needs a certain amount of financial stability in order to have the mental space to explore the ideas inside our heads, and I'm happy to tell you my friends, this is my year. During my recent sojourn to Oaxaca, Mexico I was able to take a course on woodcutting at the Taller Artistico Comunitario (highly recommend), a historical art form I have long since been inspired by. I also made time to do a meditative study of colour using the green to purple range of beans.

Back in Montreal, I am determined to continue carving out space for my own personal projects. One expression of this has been through the Creative Potential Photo Club (here you can see the first and second assignments from this photo club, and you can send me a message if you're interested to join). Another way I am creatively challenging myself is through new photo projects that involve portraiture, and in particular portraits of people in their homes. Taking photos in someone's home is a great way to make sure that they are at their maximum comfort level while keeping me beautifully off-balance, something I've talked about before in this Montreal couples session and this Edmonton family session. Stepping into a new physical environment and immediately assessing the best way to photograph my new surroundings is a challenge as I am forced to quickly evaluate light and the best ways to make use of the new space.

Inspired by this photo series by Carrie Mae Weems "Kitchen Table" and Adam Coish's "Couch Series", I’ve decided to launch my own series of portraits of people beside their kitchen sinks. The kitchen is a hub of activity in every home. Like a mirror, my kitchen sink reflects the current state of my life. When I'm busy, my kitchen sink is always full because I somehow still find time to cook but there's never enough time to clean. With this series, I’m curious to explore what others have to say about their kitchens, their sinks, and the way their lives are reflected in this part of their home.

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For Liz and Raquel, their kitchen is a hub. Liz is always in a great mood in the morning, making them ham and cheese sandwiches for their breakfast together. While Raquel is quiet and chill, Liz brings little explosions of energy to their world together, listening to her favourite rock station in the kitchen. For them, a slow Saturday morning at home together builds an important foundation and memories.

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With their kitchen taking its place as the biggest room in the house, it's easy to see why it's become the main living space in Allison and Audrey's apartment. Besides eating and cooking, their kitchen has become a hub for crafting, listening to music, watching movies, and doing schoolwork at the desk.

For Allison, piled up dishes around the kitchen are a source of stress, so she would rather stack them in the sink. At the same time she feels guilty when there are dishes in the sink. Meanwhile, Audrey would prefer to keep the space in the sink clear so that she can do other practical things in the sink, such as pouring a glass of water or washing her hands. For Audrey, a messy kitchen reflects that she is putting her energy into caring for other things.

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Christelle's kitchen is the centre of her house. She has purposefully placed her bookshelves in the kitchen to highlight the importance of this space. Besides doing lots of cooking, she often works at the kitchen table, listens to podcasts, reads, and does yoga. What made Christelle's kitchen unique from a photography perspective is the placement of her island, which allows me to shoot through the kitchen the sink rather than having it beside or behind my subject.

In her work as a writer, Christelle has spent a lot of time challenging societal norms, a quality which I greatly admire in her. When I ask her about her relationship to the kitchen as a space, she shares with me that she feels challenged because she's constantly struggling with keeping a clean kitchen. She talks about the pressures she feels as a woman to both keep her house in order and to fill her role in the kitchen. With strength, Christelle fights against this saying "this is who I am, and I'm happy to be here in my mess". It's a sentence I've been turning around in my mind since I photographed her.

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Given that this is a new personal project, I'd like to share some of my reflections so far. First, I am grateful to my subjects for making time to participate in this new photography project. A self-critique of the first set of portraits is that I placed my subjects in front of the sink, which blocked the most interesting part of the kitchen from being visible. Once I recognized this, I was careful to maintain a view of the kitchen sink while photographing my subsequent subjects.

Again, this is something that I recognized and changed with my subsequent sessions. Overall, I'm really happy with how I challenged myself by photographing new people in their home environments. I'm happy with how my shooting technique improved and the questions for my subjects deepened with each subsequent session. I'm excited to see how this photo project continues to develop.

This Life by Selena Photography blog post about portrait photography was produced by Montreal portrait photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle. Cet article de blogue sur la photographie de portrait Life by Selena était produit par Selena Phillips-Boyle, photographe montréalaise.If you're interested to have me photograph you as part of this photo series, please send me a message through my contact page or by email lifebyselena[at]gmail[dot]com.