Kristin Dillon is a 29-year-old photographer from Minesota. After taking a permanent leave of absence from college, she traveled to a small town in Maine to work on a farm and where, a decade later, she still lives with her two kids and her partner. She has carried a camera with her since she was a kid and is currently running a commercial photography business, but considers her primary skill sets to be talking to strangers, and pulling over to the side of the road to get a better look at things. Her ongoing series Closest Kin is the result of her daily wanderings with her family and community.
How did you get interested in photography and why did you pick photography as a medium and form of expression?
I’ve carried a camera with me daily since I was twelve, starting with disposables and slowly leveling up, but for the first several years, my experience with photography was mostly un-ironic selfies and snapshots of my friends. Eventually I was exposed to artists with whom I really connected. Alec Soth, Mary Ellen Mark, Sally Mann, Martin Parr, and others began to show me the potential of this medium to convey the beauty and strangeness of humankind, something I had always obsessed over. That’s when I began to take the whole practice more seriously, and shot a lot more intentionally, and just a lot more.
The next turning point was returning to film. I switched from digital to film for all my personal shooting two years ago for the simple reason that I thought constant digital photography was bad for my soul. My self-taught approach was to shoot everything all the time, assuming that I was constantly improving, but I began to notice how thoughtless and fruitless my approach was. I picked up my great-grandfather’s 35mm Nikkormat for a family vacation with just a few rolls of film, to force myself out of this habit, and I realized I had found the solution to my problem. It’s pretty basic, but shooting film takes more time and costs more money, and that causes me to slow down and create far less images overall, but far more that feel significant to me. Since I began using film, I’ve been inundated with new project ideas and inspiration. I feel like I’ve found a space where I can grow.
Introduce us to your series Closest Kin.
After years of wanting to photograph abnormalities and novelties that I don’t understand, I’m just starting to like the idea of making photographs about what I already know. My people, my kin, by blood or by choice, is my singular focal point. It’s what I have always poured my energy and time into.
“This ongoing project is a way of making art out of what would have otherwise been another passing moment”.
But I’ve been making pictures of my community almost every day for most of my life, and never saw those images as significant. That changed when I unexpectedly found myself creating a family. The physical transition of becoming a mother was much swifter than the emotional and psychological. I was thrown off kilter, I wondered if I would be able to keep making the time and space for relentless documentation, I felt uncomfortable and awkward in my most mundane moments. This turned out to be a gift – this strange and novel reality of full-time-child-rearing brought a fresh perspective and let me clearly see the beauty and oddities and value in my own daily wanderings.
Closest Kin is equal parts uneasiness and settling in, appreciation and confusion, intuition and ignorance. But more at its core, this ongoing project is a way of making art out of what would have otherwise been another passing moment, and a way to better understand what I love about my kids, my partner, and my chosen family.