New York-based photographer Chandler Kennedy has been practicing her craft for most of her life. Though the West Coast native has built quite a portfolio as a successful commercial photographer, she continues to pursue her passion for intimate portraits, with women as her main muses. Using the mysticism of sisterhood as her influence, the connection and trust between her subjects and herself is evident.

Here Kennedy sheds some light on her background in photography, her process, her work in erotica, and why she decided to pursue the medium. Kennedy also recently announced that she will temporarily stop showcasing her work in online publications in order to rekindle her relationship with her first love, print.

Much of your work consists of portraits paired with intimate, color-compositional studies of the female anatomy. What was your inspiration to start this personal collection? 
My sisters, my close friends, and Helmut Newton.

There are so many photographers whose work I cherish, and [Newton’s], of course, is trended out on the internet at this point, but seeing his work as a teenager is still very fresh and memorable: So strategic, so polished, and so powerful. I used to go to bookstores, sit on the floor, and just fall in love with his prints. It also taught me how much more soul is in a print, rather than online work—something to touch and look closer at. The colors were bold, and I just fantasized about having a physical book of my own. 

A lot of my girlfriends have very curvy bodies, so that inspired me as well. I would use my friends as subjects and shoot Polaroids of them before I shot with any digital camera. Those are my best photos to this day.
People usually have a positive reaction to my photos, but occasionally there are people who don’t see anything else other than a young girl showing skin. It’s always so much more than that to me.

As someone who photographs nude women, what do you think nudity means today?
Nudity today is defined by whomever is making that choice. It can always be interpreted in a different way, done for another reason—freedom, sex appeal, or the art, beauty, and organic aesthetic of a human’s body. Nudity will always mean something specific or personal.

How do you define feminism?
Not feeling a boundary or line to live within. To act as you wish as a person, to deconstruct pink and blue.

Was there a flashpoint for you in becoming a feminist or creating feminist art?
Shooting my sisters and girlfriends made them feel very alluring and dominant at the same time. They felt like a woman should. To feel what has been given to them and that their body, itself, is a work of art. That was always moving to me. the difference between feeling like a girl and a woman.

Why do you choose to do commercial work?
There is a special and specific art in commercial work that I personally find challenging. My photographs of women and their bodies is my art, done at my pace and only my direction. When I shoot commercial, I am working as a photographer, considering someone else’s vision. Both are very important for me to maintain.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work, as far as subject matter or direction, within the coming year?
Last year, I set a goal to shoot more and more editorials. This is my year of print. I want to see my work online less. I hope to continue to balance commercial and personal work. I hope to shoot on film and Polaroids more. I know I will still be shooting a lot of women because that is what I love to do. 

 

Photos courtesy of Chandler Kennedy. Most of these photos originally appeared in Chapter 59: FEMMES.