Band-aids and Jamila: A Conversation with Conceptual Storyteller Katherine Simóne Reynolds

Interview by Lauren Ash

I'm really intrigued by visual art that conveys black and brown people healing, literally and conceptually. The work of artists Lorna Simpson and Marlon Riggs have, for some time, forced me to pause and consider how black artists thoughtfully engage with themes like healing, but also of death, dying and overall black existence. So, when I saw my friend Katherine (Kat) Simóne Reynolds' recent work, "Band-Aids and Jamila," I paused. Given the subject matter of Healing for our current issue, I was eager to feature her photonarrative and engage in a conversation about this work in particular, and of Kat's broader work, as well. Follow Kat on Instagram: @theunsuspended and Twitter: @theunsuspended

LA: Kat, you describe yourself as a conceptual storyteller. What concepts emerge most frequently throughout your work?

KR: Through photography, I am able to set the pace of a small moment in my life, and that’s why I most enjoy conceptual work in general. The process is something special and actually the most important part [of the work] is more about fulfillment as opposed to an end goal. Although my work changes drastically at times, and themes are ever changing, the one concept that remains the same is human emotion and human connection. The ability to work with a subject that is emotionally open is a dream for me, and it happens more often when I am open myself. Through my two years of being a photographer I have realized that the ability to make this experience therapeutic for my subject is a key priority. I enjoy the connection, it is a necessary theme.

LA: Does the act of photography and artistic storytelling relate, then, to your own self-care and healing journey?

KR: I have been able to combat depression and anxiety through having a stable creative process and being able to be 100 with myself. With authenticity being the forerunner of any project that I do, I’m learning what I do and don’t like on a weekly basis. It’s like getting to know myself again with each project, it’s pretty cool.

I just love it. I can’t put it any other way. I’ve thought of quitting in the past and have been frustrated with certain things pertaining to the business side of the art world. But I realized: I don’t have to do things I don’t like, and I don’t have to struggle. There’s an epidemic of thinking that struggle means you’re really working when really it’s [more about] being proactive in your career.

LA: You were a contributing photographer for our very first issue. I have so much gratitude for you for being a part of that. Our first issue explored Growth and within your photonarrative you told the story of a young woman of color in, and a part of, nature. As a woman of color conceptual and photographic artist do you feel it is important to convey other women of color, and people of color in general, through your art? If so, why?

KR: Yeah! I was just getting the hang of portrait photography during the first issue, so I greatly appreciate you guys for allowing me to be apart of it. And, yes, I believe it is extremely important to work with all the brown and black people of the world in order to showcase the beauty of people of color. For me I can not just focus on one type of anything as I love variety in all regards. The spectrum of brown is what I like to focus on, because that spectrum offers the epitome of richness.

LA: Our current issue is focused on Healing. As I view these images of Jamila, I experience a striking contrast. The passive, "nude" (code word for white) bandaids against her chocolate skin invite me to consider that something isn't quite right. Her expressions and the lighting suggest an in-between state. The final images suggest a healing in relationship with the sun. What kind of healing is occurring here? What stories did you hope to tell through these images?

KR: To be quite honest, I took the word healing in the most literal terms I could and used the cheapest products I could get for 10 euro. I’m very big on using what you have to get your vision together, and that’s how the project came about. Jamila was a little sad that day, and I’m not one to make someone smile just because. So I worked with her energy that day and this is what the result was. So as far as actual healing, I can’t say if that happened or not. I do know that we became friends from this shoot, which is always enriching.

LA: Thank you for sharing more about your approach and more about this beautiful visual story with us, Kat. 

PHOTO: Katherine Simóne Reynolds

PHOTO: Katherine Simóne Reynolds

Katherine Simóne Reynolds is a 23-year-old freelance photographer specializing in portrait and architectural photography. She acquired a new found passion in photography during her study abroad in Vienna, Austria while attaining her B.A. in Dance from Webster University. Katherine captures many social issues within the Saint Louis community; her first show, TheDivide, was a visual interpretation of the socioeconomic separation concerning the intersection of Delmar and Kingshighway, from an architectural standpoint. Through photography, Katherine has made it her goal to give unnoticed beauty a purpose. View her portfolio on her website: www.theunsuspended.com.