DC is fully equipped with every type of lawyer imaginable. We’ve got government lawyers, immigration lawyers, divorce lawyers, employment lawyers, Congressman that double as lawyers, and thanks to Michael Kennedy we’ve got one more to add to the list- a lawyer that doubles as a photographer.
We were quite intrigued by this rare pairing of professions, so we sat down with Kennedy to get the low down on how he lives his double life. And don’t worry… before this interview got underway, we made Kennedy solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
An Attorney-Photographer is not a match we see every day – how did you stumble upon both of these paths?
I guess you’d say I caught the travel bug early in life and never quite recovered. Studying abroad in Italy really opened my eyes to exotic food, contrasting cultures and I knew there was more out there to experience…30 countries, 22 mountains and some dangerous slums later, I still feel there are stories to be told. Six years ago, while crossing into Myanmar, I realized that I need to document these parts of the world, but how? From Iceland to the Backwaters of India, Congo to Bolivia, I typically use the lens and the pictures to let others experience the things that I see.
As for law, I love public policy work in DC and that’s what drew me here many moons ago. People get frustrated with the lack of change and impact they have in this city – and I hear them – but that’s the way the American forefathers designed it. I tell recent graduates – don’t be dazzled by shiny things, focus on the refining your skills, learning about issues and making yourself indispensable. That’s my philosophy behind the camera as well.
Being a photographer, what are your thoughts on the selfie?
“The Selfie” seems to be a necessary evil. Heck, politicians do better selfies with fans than anyone else I know – which should scare you. People selfie in voting lines! There’s some very creative selfie-ers, and there’s an undeniable role for it in our culture. But, if the focal point of your image is you and your communication to the world through Instagram is “hey look at me”, I think that speaks volumes.
What is your favorite subject when it comes to photography and why?
Street photography, a beautiful landscape or even a mesmerizing portrait all have different qualities. I tend to travel to and photograph busy streets, places not accessible to most, and sometimes dangerous locations that most people wouldn’t dare to access.
Some photographers have their preferences on black and white vs. color. I’m not exclusively married to either but I love poppy colors. On one hand, I’m very proud of my East Africa: black and white series, which would not have the same feel with color. Juxtapose that with the Portraits of Eastern Africa and you get a completely different feel – lots of color, people and movement. Same with my DC collection – sometimes you want the architecture of the city to be the focal point, sometimes it’s the change of seasons with DC in the background. It’s the best thing about creativity – you make the rules!
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever captured on film?
There’s a place in my heart for street photography – the fast pace environment, limited timeframe and personal nature of it makes it fun to shoot. For example, two years ago I was in the Dharavi slums, the largest slum in the world (which also inspired the film Slumdog Millionaire). There was so much to learn there – people working hard recycling metals and plastic, but it’s a tough life and the life duration doesn’t tick past 50.
On one hand, I want people to relate to ordinary tasks like washing clothes and, on the other hand, I want to bring light to the fact that not having wifi when you get a pumpkin spiced latte is a first world problem. I think I captured that in some of my portraits.
One of my images won first place at DCFotoweek’s and was displayed at the National Geographic Museum. It was a shot I took under the memorial bridge during the Kingsman Island festival.
As far as projects are concerned, I just finished a commissioned Standing Rock Sioux Tribe shoot that I’m proud of. The Guides from a Non-Lonely Planet project is also an awesome project that’s dear to my heart. It’s a portrait of all the guides that have helped me navigate this enormous planet. Lastly, I do portraits and events in DC, engagement photos or friends, although I’m selective.
That aside, just dating in DC…with my cat!