Kat Kiernan is an arts writer based in Brooklyn, New York and Boston. She specializes in fine art and documentary photography, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Don't Take Pictures. She has also contributed essays for monographs and a collection of essays. See the links below for published writing samples.
The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life
Essay by Kat Kiernan
The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life is a collection of essays by 40 visual artists. Edited by artist and educator, Sharon Louden, the book describes how artists extend their practices outside of their studios. All of these contributors have impactful, artistic activities as change agents in their communities. Their first-hand stories show the general public how contemporary artists of the 21st century add to creative economies through their out-of-the-box thinking while also generously contributing to the well-being of others. Although there is a misconception that artists are invisible and hidden, the truth is that they furnish measurable and innovative outcomes at the front lines of education, the non-profit sector, and corporate environments.
Published March 2017 by Intellect Books.
What Is Left Behind: Stories From Estate Sales
Essay by Kat Kiernan
What Is Left Behind: Stories from Estate Sales is the first monograph by photographer Norm Diamond. Diamond has visited countless estate sales, photographing objects that evoke sadness, humor, and ironic commentary on our cultural history. The articles defy conventional expectations: a science project from 1939, a century-old letter from a rejected lover, and a complete collection of Playboy magazines. Poignant photographs of these possessions reveal clues about otherwise unknowable people. These items take on a life of their own, both in these photographs and in the idea that they will now move on to new owners.
Published May 2017 by Daylight Books.
Susanna Majuri's World in Water
Don't Take Pictures, Issue 9, September 2017
"Although otherworldly in their appearance, these photographs are not manipulated in post-production. Majuri relies instead on the transcendental qualities of the water to create her illusions. The women appear to reach out to touch a tree branch or an iceberg only to have it ripple away beneath their fingertips like the dissipation of a dream in the morning light. A wave or a stream of bubbles over part of the background adds to the magic of the photograph."
Posing for Penn
Don't Take Pictures Online, July 2017
"[Irving Penn's] curtain is just a curtain. Yet it is also a shining example of the importance we place on objects that belonged to famous people. Had it hung anywhere else, or been owned by anyone else, it might have been used as a painting drop cloth before being discarded. But with Penn’s name attached, this curtain has been transformed into its own art object. By photographing ourselves in front of it, we are each hoping to be transformed as well. "
Delicate Flowers: The Photographs of Kristen Hatgi-Sink
Don't Take Pictures, Issue 6, March 2016
"The women who inhabit these luscious spaces are often despondent; forlornly draped over benches, staring into space or directly at the viewer—their gaze unapologetic yet non-confrontational. Hatgi-Sink directs her models from behind the dark cloth of her 8x10 view camera, positioning them in subtly sensual poses amidst the verdant Eden that she has created."
Poignant Pics No. 12
One Twelve Publishing
"Years later, when I saw Jefferson Hayman’s photograph The Falling Rocket, I had a visceral reaction. Few photographs, when seen for the first time, conjure such strong feelings of familiarity that we think we must have been there when it was made."
Lori Vrba's Life Assembled
Don't Take Pictures, Issue 5, September 2015
"Secrets are an important element in Vrba's work. By never revealing the exact meanings of the individual pieces, she simultaneously keeps her secretes hidden while alluding to them in her art. Each sculpture contains a personal story, one that is rife with symbolic objects, yet difficult to decipher. Whether in a still image, or an elaborate display of objects, Vrba creates stories and scenarios that are a bit dark, a bit mysterious, and contain a bit of Southern Gothic."
Alternative Process Week
"There is a shift happening in the world of fine art photography. Perhaps in response to the digital revolution, many photographers are trading in their megapixels for mercury, their ink for collodion; and some are combining new and old technologies. Alternative Process photography today is a hybrid of historical techniques and contemporary ideas. Old is new again and the resurgence of non-silver processes has not gone unnoticed by collectors. Despite, or perhaps because of, the digital revolution, artists and collectors alike are seeking evidence of the artist’s hand in their work. "
A Studio Visit With Timothy Pakron
Don't Take Pictures, Issue 4, March 2015
"Photographers have an inherent desire to preserve. The traditional role of the camera and the photographic print is to record and archive what is in front of the lens, whether as moments, faces, or experiences. Because of Pakron’s unique method of printing, his images are one-of-a-kind. “My job as an artist,” he says, 'is to challenge the viewer. To make [them] see differently, think differently, and most importantly, feel differently.'"
17 Winters: The Photographs of Alexandra de Steiguer
Don't Take Pictures, Issue 3, September 2014
"Imagine stepping off of a boat, alone, onto a snow-covered island in the North Atlantic Ocean. The sand is sharp and frozen, there are no palm trees, and the only neighbors are birds and seals. Alexandra de Steiguer has lived this kind of island life for the past 17 winters. Her black and white photographs portray her unique perspective of the Isles of Shoals in their dormant state. Through her lens, she documents the wild and harsh surroundings, and examines her place within them."
Kat Kiernan was a contributing writer for Feature Shoot from 2014-2015.
"...Chen’s photographs are candid, playful, and provide an intimate look into their lives. Not afraid to enter the fray, his close proximity to his subjects place the viewer into each activity, whether it’s a stickball game in the street, or a swim in the river.
In less-than-idyllic conditions, these precarious balancing acts and unstructured types of play appear more dangerous than if they occurred on suburban playgrounds. The tension between innocent child’s play and bleak surroundings is indicative of how fleeting this carefree and fearless time is in their lives."
New Homes for Old Photos: The Photo Fostering Project
Don't Take Pictures Online, August 2014
"There are few sadder scenes than a lost photograph lying in the street. Though I have no attachment to the image itself, I cannot help but project a complicated history behind each photograph, and how it ended up in the street. Perhaps it is a dearly loved portrait of someone's grandmother which they are retracing their steps to find, or maybe it was purposefully let go by a bitter lover after a breakup. The possibilities are endless. I wondered about them when I saw these discarded segments of person histories fluttering in the breeze or wedged and damp in the gutter. Unfortunately, as our society trades paper for pixels, I haven't seen one in years."
Photorealism and the Camera: A Conversation with Louis K. Meisel
Don't Take Pictures Online, July 2014
"In an era where digital technology has allowed photography to grow in both scale and precision, photographers might question the relevance of photorealistic painting. If an artist intends to record a scene or a person in the most lifelike manner, why not use a camera instead of a brush?"
Preserving Photo History: The Camera Heritage Museum
Don't Take Pictures Online, April 2014
"Schwartz sees his role in the photography community shifting from photographer and printer to curator and historian. He feels that now more than ever it is important to chronicle and preserve photography's evolution. With reviving interest of historic process and our society's current obsession with all thing vintage, the museum stands a good chance of engaging new audiences."
Fictitious Expiration Dates and the Pressure to Produce Art
Don't Take Pictures, Issue 2, March 2014
"'Artworks must have been completed within the last two years.' This sentence arises amidst other requirements for exhibition proposals, juried competitions, publications, and other venues for showing ones art. It seems harmless enough, maybe even helpful, encouraging artists to continue producing work during their busy lives. And yet I have recently begun to view this requirement as one piece in a larger problem: an expiration date on art."
Big, Red, and Shiny
Kat Kiernan was a contributing writer for Big, Red, and Shiny.
"This show marks the centennial of Karsh’s birth, exhibiting work that exemplifies his career spanning 60 years. At the time of his birth, photography had been in existence for a mere 74 years, a newborn of a medium. Best known for his studio portraiture, Karsh immortalized the great icons of our time, a feat that that not too long ago was thought impossible. "People of Consequence” he called them: actors, composers, writers, scientists, politicians, visual artists, and women of the church. 74 years prior to his birth their faces would have been forgotten, idealized and altered by the perceptions and aesthetics of painters."
United in Spirit: A Mother/Daughter Artisan Duo
The Clutch Guide, November 2013
"Maureen often walked by an empty ceramics studio on her way to class, and her interest in clay rekindled. Corresponding with what she calls her 'midlife crisis,' she took a few private classes and continued to study and experiment on her own."
Getting Started: Exploring the Artist/Gallery Relationship
Don't Take Pictures, Issue 1, September 2013
"For many artists looking to exhibit their work with a gallery, the dynamics of the professional relationship can be unclear. The role of a gallerist is to present an artist's work in the best environment possible and help grow their collector base. Artists should understand a few elements of the artist/gallery relationship. Promoting shows, speaking with potential collectors, and creating and maintaining mailing lists are just as much the artist's responsibility as it is the gallery's. Before you begin picking out your outfit for the opening reception…how do you start?"
Joel Meyerowitz: Legacy - The Preservation of Wilderness of New York City Parks
Art New England Online, April 2011
"Many of these places seem truly wild as though they were photographed in the woods of New England when in fact they are pockets of wilderness within the expanse of New York City. The photographs take a different approach from the typical man versus nature, and show a coexistence where picnickers and yoga classes are able to experience the natural world."
Living Aboard in Winter: Tough, but Enjoyable
Soundings Magazine, March 2011
"These boats are home to about 100 year-round residents. With so many people living in Boston's harbors and marinas it is surprising how few people are aware of this increasingly popular lifestyle. Growing up on the coast of Maine I spent fantastic and exciting summers aboard a 32-foot sloop with my parents, but childhood has a way of skewing our perceptions. I set out to explore and document the live-aboard lifestyle from an adult's perspective, one accustomed to 900 sq feet of apartment living."