Can you talk about how you started as a photographer?
Kristie Muller is a videographer, photographer, and artist from Toronto. Her practice largely exists within the cultural sectors and includes clients such as Heron Preston and Toro Y Moi.
I started out using disposable cameras when I was really young, nine or ten. My family never had cameras around and there weren't many family photos, but I was always drawn to it. I was a dancer at that time so I took pictures of my friends rehearsing and the costumes.
Do you have a camera of choice? If so, why?
I have a few that I like, mostly digital now. I've been using phone cameras a lot, especially for video. I like how discreet it is. I can sneak a lot of pictures/videos easily, especially on set. During shoots the energy shifts completely if I bring out a big camera. My favourite camera is on one of my old iphones. It's really tired out, and makes everything look flat and muted. I don't want any of the images I'm producing to make you think about cameras.
Your imagery has a candid yet distinct familiarity to it, are there any conscious themes or motifs you like to explore in your work?
There are a few things that I keep revisiting: memory, surveillance, theft, temperament, character, Pareidolia, micro expressions. I use classic looking lines, but l lot of my work has a sense of humour to it.
Is there a certain type of work you would like to start attracting? What is your dream job?
Lately I've been focused on taking my video formula and using it for music and fashion projects. I study culture and I like to tweak it. I hid out for a while alone in my work, but now I'm inspired to work with people. I have a lot of dream jobs. Ultimately I want to be doing things that feel fulfilling and allow me to continue my work and fuel bigger personal projects that I have up my sleeve.
What are your short and long term goals?
I'm trying to build and keep a momentum in whatever I'm doing. I've spent a lot of time feeling like I've been on hold somewhat. Less waiting around, overthinking and planning; more doing. I'm working on a short film, planning to have it finished this year.
How separate do you like to keep your personal interests from your work?
My personal interests spill into my work constantly. I'm interested in that crossover. My background is in dance, so I approach directing and editing like a choreographer. In my editing I work with nuances in the motion and steer things in and out of the sound like movements in dance. Fashion has always been a thing for me too. I do all the styling in my fashion projects and personal work. Music, writing and comedy also play key roles.
What are your thoughts on declining work?
I've turned down a fair amount of work over the years. It can generate a bit of guilt, but the guilt pales in comparison to the regret of doing something you knew wasn't right for you from the beginning. I've always been selective about what I associate my work with. I'm really lucky, often the people I work with understand my vibe and entrust me with a lot of freedom.
How do you consume content and references for your work?
Usually it's just through my surroundings. I'm always taking in the details. Things I see, people, words, shapes, nature, garbage. I like reality tv, lately I've been drawing a lot from that.
Can you share the last 5 photos in your camera roll?
As somebody who likes to blur the line between personal and professional, how conscious are you of developing a practice? Do things happen more organically or are you trying to steer it in a certain way?
Always steering, always developing. A few years ago I wanted to disassociate myself personally from my work, now I'm being more immersive. My character is what's driving what I do, and it's all somewhat performative.
What do you mean by performative?
Performative can sound insincere, but it's not. Some of it is my demeanour and some of it is the process itself. I'm not a stiff and uptight photographer type. When I'm filming, I'm moving around a lot. When I take pictures I'll go wherever to get my angle. I'll climb really high, or I'll literally stripper crawl on the floor. In directing, I like to act out scenarios with whoever I'm filming, and then we can draw things out of each other. It's the same in my photography, I'll often demonstrate movements or actions for a model/actor to portray.
What is it like to be on set with you?
I like to set up camp and establish a vibe. I prefer to have as much privacy as possible, with a small group of people (2 - 5 tops). Everyone that's there needs to be active in what's happening. Extra eyes and cameras are stifling. I try to keep it light and open ended. I'll have a loose plan that I'm ready to abandon at anytime. As a director I'm pretty clear with what is working and what isn't. I have a very intuitive 'yes' or 'no' system that's instilled in me. I like to gather and gather, and then I'll take that and break it down and twist it into something different.
How much of your work is staged vs candid?
It's both. I tend to think that pictures have little to do with reality. I'll photograph things that I see as they are in the street, but they'll end up looking surreal. I hone in on details and leave out the extra noise. During planned shoots I'll depict fictitious situations, but usually the footage and images that I end up using are candid from in between moments. I'm sneaky.
Do you ever think about expanding your work beyond photo and video?
A lot of what I'm doing now has sculptural elements. I'm also experimenting more with sound in my video work. Interested in creating music and noise, generating storylines through audio.
Top 5 albums of all time?
That's tricky, here's a few I like: