Interview / Kay Erickson

My goal is to create an overall avoidance of the mundane, emotionless and non-reflective image. I want the piece to stir some emotion. I want the spirit of the place or object in my photographs to come through.

-Kay Erickson

Aswan Temple

Aswan Temple

Kay is a second generation photographer who, as a child, watched her Mother hand color photographs. Once she received her first camera at age 7, she was hooked. Kay went on to study at the University of Minnesota, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, Summa cum Laude, in Photography and Sculpture; and subsequently earned her Master’s degree.Her work has been exhibited in various cities throughout Europe, including Amsterdam, and Stockholm. Her images have been licensed worldwide. Kay has exhibited her work locally in Southern California in the Long Beach, East Village artist’s community. Kay has been awarded a Mayoral Proclamation from the Major of Santa Monica, California for her work as an artist in residence with the Santa Monica/Malibu School District, teaching math standards through the art of photography.Having just returned from India, where she attended a photographic workshop with 9 other photographers who used their skills to create photographic presentations for various non-governmental organizations in Calcutta, she brings a photographic series of her train ride from Calcutta to the holy city of Varanaasi photographed through the train window.Through her extensive travels, Kay captures images of the people in local communities around the world in their cultural surroundings. Through these images, she hopes to convey the humanity that we all share, and in the process, hopefully eliminate some of the present stereotypes that are contributing to worldwide unrest.


Could you tell us about yourself?

My name is Kay Erickson, and I was born in Minneapolis, MN; where I earned a BFA in Photography from the University of Minnesota, then later a MS degree from Minnesota State University – Mankato.  I have worked in a lot of different fields, but photography has always been my first choice.  I’ve always been interested in creative endeavors since I was a child.  I used to watch my Mother hand tint black and white photos when I grew up, and when I was 7 years old I received my first film camera, and have never stopped shooting photographs.



Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?

I took a lot of art history courses for my BFA, and was exposed to classic forms from early Greek art up to Impressionism and modernism.  My art professors at the University of Minnesota were also classically trained and my photo professor, Allen Downs, (Lila Downs’ father) also taught us to crop in the camera, and to always print full frame. One photographer that I’ve always admired was Edward Steichen, who used to etch his negatives to give a more painterly look to his photos.

There is your artwork you prefer?

My style has been constantly evolving from basic black & white film sourced photographs, to hand-tinted black & white photos, then onto sepia toned photos, and finally the jump to digital photography.  Several series that I really still enjoy are my sepia toned photos from Egypt from 2005, and my hand-tinted, sepia toned series: Painted Lady taken of a heavily tattooed, semi-nude model.  I also like my series of digital photos taken with a Holga lens, mounted on my Nikon SLR.

Karnak Holyman

Karnak Holyman

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

What’s the best thing about being a woman artist?

Being able to benefit from the women artists who broke ground before me. Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Tina Modotti, Diane Arbus, to name a few. I think of the devastation of Camille Claudel in conjunction with her work with Rodin, and feel a responsibility to take full advantage of what the earlier artists had to go through in order to be able to be free to express myself through photography and freely display them in exhibitions.

What is the most difficult part of being a female artist?

There aren’t too many disadvantages in the 21st century that I’ve experienced.  There are so many successful woman artists now, that I think as a whole, women have more than proved their worth in the art world.  As long as I keep up on the technical aspects of photography, like everyone else in the photo world, then I have the confidence to communicate with photo labs, galleries, and photo supply vendors.

What has been your solution for that?

As I mentioned above, in keeping up with technical innovations in photography, and viewing new and historical photographs in museums, galleries, and periodicals.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

There are times when I didn’t sell photos at an exhibition, or win a competition, where I felt that my work may not be as good as it could be, but then I realized that I was using markers to success that weren’t realistic. I think that as long as I feel good about my photography, and continue to evolve as a photographer, that I am succeeding. I think it may be important not to tie success to monetary goals, and to look at your photography as statements and interpretation, rather than a means to a financial end.

Aswan Woman

Aswan Woman

How do you look at your previous pieces?

Looking back always makes me see my earlier works a little different.  The more distant I get from the point of creation, the more I can look at the pieces in a purely objective manner.

How does your cultural background affect your work?

Coming from the relatively stable Midwest, I can certainly appreciate different cultures and struggles that other people in different parts of the world are going through.  I was lucky to be able to travel as I was growing up because my Mother worked for the airlines, and we traveled someplace new each year.  That got me interested in other places, and different cultures, which I am still pursuing today.

Clinic Ketchen

Clinic Ketchen

Which project are you dreaming of?

I have worked in India with NGOs in order to provide them with photos for fundraising and marketing.  Any project where I can help a group of people along with getting great images for exhibitions is a win for me.

What is up and coming for you, as projects?

I am currently working on a project with the Ojibwe Nation in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The Native Americans have an oral history, and many of the stories that have been passed down may be lost if the current generation doesn’t record them for future generations.  There are also herbal remedies, and healing ceremonies that need to be kept alive.  I have taped some interviews already about growing up on a reservation 60 years ago, and want to continue to record more stories, creating an archive of interviews and portraits, housed in one of the reservations in the Midwest.  I would also like to provide cameras to the children who live on the reservations so they can continue to record their experiences and add them to the archive.

Shaman With Prayer Pole

Shaman With Prayer Pole

What would you like to do next?

Continue with the Ojibwe project and hopefully secure some grants to be able to continue my work with the project. I would also like to go back to Calcutta, India and document a temple by the Ganges, with the people who live by the temple and their lifestyle.


For more artwork, visit Kay’s website and Women Artists of the World ;)


Presented by International Foundation for Women Artists


2 thoughts on “Interview / Kay Erickson

  1. I have always been interested in the American Indians – especially would like to see them
    and their culture through Kay Erickson’s lens.

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