Kevin Sikorski On Discovering His Identity, Photography, and More
Kevin Sikorski was still a teenager compelled by the desire to document and spend time with friends when he began taking photographs of his hometown in Connecticut. Initially, the pictures he produced came as a result of artistic expression and searching for self-identity within his own insecurities and tenacity. Innately fascinated with the worlds around him, he began capturing the everchanging longings of love, expression, and beauty of the youth.
“I started doing self-portraits and I would basically shoot in my backyard until I figured it out,” Kevin shares. “This was also around the same time as Instagram so I would post my work on there and build this community. It was cool to see these other artists from all over and get inspired by them.”
He further developed that passion into a career after graduating from Parsons School of Design in New York City, subsequently after the world was brought to a halt from the lockdown. Now, based in Miami, Kevin has an extensive client roster that spans across LA and NY. Amongst several notable figures and celebrities, Future, Claudia Tihan, Mario Adrion, and Harry Styles are few recognizable names in Sikorski’s portfolio. Through photography, his visual diary represents the most creative act of impulsivity.
For our latest interview, we caught up with Kevin Sikorski to talk about weaving personal identity within his photography, working with Playboy’s CENTERFOLD, developing a shoot, and much more.
How did you start getting into photography?
I started back when I was in high school, but I remember as a kid taking my parents’ camera and shooting things. It started being a more consistent thing in high school; I started doing self-portraits and I would basically shoot in my backyard until I figured it out. I learned to navigate Photoshop and this was also around the same time as Instagram so I would post my work on there and build this community. It was cool to see these other artists from all over and get inspired by them.
That turned into me photographing all of my friends. My dad would drive me to all of these places, because it was before I could drive, and we’d shoot for hours every single weekend. It’s really fun and cool that I’m still close with my friends. It’s nice to see how we all started off when we were younger and now it’s turned into a little bit more than that. There’s definitely a point where I was doing it for fun and once I toured Parsons that my parents were like alright, this could actually be a thing.
Does your personal identity impact your art’s narrative?
One of the projects that I did that ended up being my senior thesis, the teacher I had wanted us to do a very personal body of work. At the time I was focusing on a different style of photography and didn’t want to tap into anything personal. After some trial and error and going back to the way I began shooting self-portraits, and my thesis ended up being about growing up with anxiety, a bit of an eating disorder, and some body dysmorphia. I really tapped into how growing up with that affected me and it still does today so I decided to go back to my hometown where I first started taking photos and I did a bunch of self-portraits.
Once I moved to New York, I stopped with the whole self-portrait thing and focus on shooting other people, but I really want to go back into that and turn it into a more mature standpoint. That was a recent project that I did that turned those personal things into a body of work. It’s something that I want to keep on working on too, but I definitely have some personal projects that I would love to work on this year.
Some of your latest work, specifically with CENTERFOLD, documents those exploring artistic expression and sex-positivity: how did you make these subjects feel at ease in front of your camera?
One of my favorite things about photography is making the subject feel as comfortable and good about the way they look as possible. The first step, especially since some of these girls I don’t know until we start shooting, is to always talk to them before and layout what exactly we’re going to be doing. I think too when it comes to Playboy or Onlyfans, people might have the wrong idea of what it is we’re shooting. People might think, “is that pornography?” but no it’s not at all. It’s sex-positive and empowering women.
I also work with a lot of women on my team who are all very supportive and have worked on many sets like this prior. I want to be around people that I know understand how to create and are very good at making people feel comfortable. I think the key is getting an idea of what makes the model or subject feel comfortable and most empowered, and then build off of that.
Claudia Tihan is amongst one of the first creators you’ve worked with in conjunction with the platform—what is your favorite aspect about the project or a memory from shooting that resonates with you?
I hadn’t met her prior to shooting but the makeup artist was really great. It was cool to show her the process and show her behind-the-scenes videos. I love days like that where I get to work with a big team of people and we’re each contributing bits and pieces to make the shoot so much better.
I was recommended her by a friend of mine who’s also a photographer, but her team had reached out and her creative director had planned each of the shoots we did. She was really great to work with and the set was probably some of my favorite photos that I shot recently. She was super chill and laid back, and also, working with a team of pretty much all female creatives made her super comfortable.
Elsewhere in your portfolio, you’ve captured Miami nightlife and more intimate works. What stories do you feel most compelled to tell?
Like I said earlier about the personal ones, I’d really like to tap into that more this year. Specifically, I’d really love to do a landscape series of my hometown, maybe turn that into a book. I really want to photograph a couple members of my family. Especially as they grow older, I want to be able to capture them on film. Sometimes you don’t realize but one day, all you’ll have left is the photographs and memories.
The main thing that I want to do aside from that is photograph people and keep them empowered. That’s why I love the Playboy stuff, it’s all about empowering sex-positive females. I also am trying to include a bit more of diversity in my work so I’d love to shoot some more plus-size models. I love the direction that the industry is going in.
How do you typically go about developing a shoot?
At the moment, I have two different managers who will reach out to different clients or if clients reach out to me, they’ll run it by me. It normally starts with hopping on a call or grabbing coffee, I’m all about making personal connections and building the vision for the shoot. From there, I’ll normally make a moodboard and I think that’s the most important part so that you have some sort of visual reference to go off of. Sometimes the brand will do the casting but most of the time I’ll do my own. I’m also really big on location scouting because that’s a big part of my work. Once we build out the team, we go from there.
What dialogues would you like your works to enter into? What questions would you like it to raise in the mind of the viewer?
That’s something that I’m still trying to figure out. Going back to the personal work that I mentioned before, I got really great feedback from that and it’s something I still want to explore. I think going into men’s mental health or body dysmorphia, or even challenge the ways photographers are shooting. I’ve seen like Harry Styles for example and how he’s challenging sexuality, that’s something that I love. I want to keep taking these well-known symbolic figures or topics and pushing what they mean.
Elsewhere in photography, Natalie Goldstein chats with us about NFTs, finding her aesthetic, and more.