Showcase: Laika For Bennies

Who is Laika for Bennies? Tell us a bit about your background.

Laika for Bennies is just a name I’ve always used. Not exactly sure where it came from but I like the way it sounds. My name is Kaitlyn Fong and I’m a nineteen-year-old photography and public relations student going to USC and living in Los Angeles. I grew up in the quintessential suburban town in northern California – one parkway lined with trees, track homes and hot summers. I was an angsty little fuck. All I could think about was leaving. I thought I had nothing to take photographs of. Now that I’m in this strange sprawl of a city (even though I love it 100%) I’d love to go back home and photograph it. The dilapidated shut-down stores and the teenagers. I think there are fascinating things in every place – even if they’re mundane or one-dimensional.

I’ve met the best people here. The ones that pull things out of you that you didn’t know existed and push you around and make you feel things. This year has been incredibly instrumental for me as far as growing as an artist and a person. I like being nineteen. I’m terrified of turning twenty. I only like odd numbers. Somebody is pushing me from behind to enter that second decade.

Since taking courses here, I’ve transitioned into mostly working with medium format film. I love the detail. But I also love the grain and “mistakes” that happen with a shitty point and shoot 35 mm camera.  I’m constantly re-examining and analyzing my work. As I change, my photographs change with me.


What is photography for you?

Half of my photography is a sort of reportage of the people and situations spiraling around me. A visual diary. The other half is more concept-based, mostly dealing with internal/external human emotion, tension, relationships, nostalgia, sexuality and the abject. But even when I’m shooting a more deliberate photo versus a snapshot, I always photograph what is emotionally resonating with me and the people around me at that very exact time. A photograph is a physical capture of a certain fraction of time that that inhabits a certain place in the entire span of your memory. And in that capture comes the feelings, colors, smells, time, place and atmosphere. I want people to feel those tangible and visceral qualities in my work, even if they’re uncomfortable.

Which aspects of your pictures make them stand out as yours, what is your signature?

Somebody pointed out to me during a critique that the subjects in my photographs consistently have their faces concealed, but other body parts that are considered private or revealing are shown. So a lot of my recent work deals with the dichotomy of concealment/revealment – I find that people are more willing to expose their bodies in photos if their faces aren’t shown. I’m known to rarely show my face in photographs of myself, and I’m always drawn to photographs where faces aren’t shown. I feel like body parts, girls, hair and sleep make up a lot of my work. I also only use natural, soft lighting with the exception of a few.

How do you approach someone for a photograph? How do you set up your work? Do you always ask?

I only photograph the people closest to me. And the people around me are always willing to do whatever in front of the camera for me. My friends get naked and flail around our loft and bleed and fight each other, and I have a camera. It’s nice.

Tell us a story about one of the people you have photographed that made you want to take their picture.

I love taking photos of Michelle. She’s one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. She can always act like there isn’t a camera around, and I love that quality in a person.

Tell us a story about one of your pictures? What is your favourite shot and why?

This recent diptych is one of my favorites. It’s part of my final critique for the class I’m currently in. It was a grayish day in Los Angeles and we had just woken up from a crazy night. I pulled that green chair into the living room and just sort of positioned Michelle’s body on it and under it. I remember really wanting to eat a hot dog as I was taking these pictures.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face to get a great picture?

I have to push myself to keep shooting more and more film. I’m pretty picky about what I think is a good photograph – I normally only choose a few images to actually print from a single contact sheet. But I also can be really lazy, so I always have to tell myself to take more photos so I have more options. I know what image I love though the instant I see it, even if I end up not liking it later. I guess that’s just the way it goes.

When did you start taking pictures?

I started taking pictures with a DSLR camera when I was fifteen. I never took classes in high school, though. It seemed pointless. I sort of refuse to take pictures with a digital camera now.

What’s the message of your photos, what do you want to communicate or accomplish through your work?

I want people to feel the things I try and show through my work, especially when it comes to emotion and tension. People will always project their own emotions and past experiences while looking at a photograph that their cores responds to. Lately I want people to physically feel a tension and longing that’s present in my work. I like when you feel the air change around you when you know people are uncomfortable – it gets thick and alert.

What’s the question you wish I had asked? …and what is the answer?

 I guess there’s an endless amount of questions I wish you had asked…so I’ll just tell you something I recently did. I went to Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington and it was a beautiful funny sadness I won’t get over for a while.

(Images © laika for bennies)

One Response to “Showcase: Laika For Bennies”
  1. Rifqi says:

    Some interesting work, thanks for sharing.

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