Workers in Green UAE

In conversation with… Jacqui Kenny

Each month we feature a different artist in our 3×3 Instagallery. This month, our artist in residence is The Agoraphobic Traveller, Jacqui Kenny, who travels the world using Google Street View.

Cactus USA

Hi Jacqui, we’re all about storytelling, is storytelling a big part of your work?

Yes, definitely. My background is in the film industry, so storytelling has always been a big part of my life. With my Street View images I’m always looking for moments that seem a little surreal and hopefully leave a lot to the imagination. I want people to get lost in the images and feel like they are in a different world, and perhaps even get a glimpse into my world.

I often think the images are more of a representation of my story and my agoraphobia than they are of the places themselves. I’m not trying to capture reality because I don’t think I am in a position to do so as I’m too far removed from the locations.  I also try to select scenes that have a cinematic quality to them, which always feels a bit surprising coming from Street View. Often when I come across an image I love, I imagine a short scene in my head and I even hope one day I can explore the idea of turning them into short films.

Children Playing Football Peru

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Firstly, film and photography. Photography is my number one love and I have spent the last 17 years studying photographers and their work. When I was in my 20’s I landed a job in the film industry working with a director who had the most amazing library of photo books. These books transported me to new worlds and I was instantly hooked. A few of my favourites are Luigi Ghirri, Harry Gruyaert and Stephen Shore.

After working in film  I moved into the digital world. I was really excited to see new ways of creating emotional content through the use of technology.  From Snapchat to Machine Learning, it became obvious that new creative forms of expression were developing.   So I started to think about ways I could combine my love for traditional craft and technology.

I was also inspired to do some good in the world. I have always admired people that are very open about their struggles in order to help others feel less alone.  They gave me the strength to open up about my own mental health.

Flying Dog Peru

What makes a great Street View portrait, and have your opinions changed since you first started?

When I first started I was excited by everything I saw. From a camel crossing the street to dogs chasing the Google car, I found it all very new and interesting. I also loved the height of the camera and the fact that it is 360, which gives it a slightly warped perspective. Once I got over my initial excitement, I realised I was drawn to certain elements which helped me develop my own aesthetics and style. To give the images a more cinematic feel I needed a lot of space, so that drew me to smaller, more isolated towns. Light is very important, so I started to look at places close to the equator or locations with extreme temperatures. I’m also attracted to vibrant colours and interesting architecture. Once I find a place with all these elements, I spend a lot of time looking for the perfect capture. I’m always looking for the extraordinary in the everydayness.

I love the fact that I have control in the sense I can parachute into anywhere in the world. but at the same time, I don’t have control when it comes to the images, as they already exist and are frozen in time. So it’s incredibly hard to find the perfect shot. 28,000 screen captures later and I’m still looking for it.

Ladies Outside Mosque Senegal

What would you like to see more of from the creative industries?

I’ve always been drawn to the more edgy work. Advertising had been fixed for 40 – 50 years and it’s very obvious that it is in a  massive transition and the resolution of this is both uncertain and very exciting, especially with technologies such as AI. I’m very intrigued to see what happens in all creative industries.

I would also like to see more exploration and experimentation in social media.I think platforms like Instagram are ripe for new creativity and I love seeing work that has been optimised to work on these platforms.

I’m also happy to see that there are far more creative campaigns focusing on social good these days. I hope this is more than a trend.

Matching Car Mexico

Have you got any winning tips for upcoming artists you wish someone had told you?

There are a few things that have stood out to me over the last few years.  Telling the world that I struggle with my mental health was an incredibly hard step to take, but I’ve realised that the hardest things to share about yourself are often the most powerful, and they allow for deeper connections with other people.  So it pays to be brave.

Believe in your own take on the world, which in turn can help create a cohesive body of work.

Social media is so important! I didn’t realise just how much so until I started this project. With platforms like Instagram you are so close to some of the most influential people in the creative industries and you’ve got a better chance of getting seen. It’s a great time to create.

Pink and Blue House Peru

And last of all, what’s next?

I’ve got a few project ideas I’m exploring. I’m still hoping to produce a book with my Street View images and I’m currently in discussion with Google about how this could work.  It would also be great to have more exhibitions and I’m looking into doing something special in London. I’m also really keen to do an entirely new photographic series that involves the people that have reached out to discuss their agoraphobia and mental health with me. Through Instagram I’ve made connections with people from all over the world, from Kenya to Peru, who have really powerful stories to share. Of course, this might entail some travel, which I struggle with, but for the right project it would be worth it. I’m also playing around with ideas that involve Artificial intelligence. So a lot is going on.

Great stuff, thank you so much for contributing to our 3×3 Instagallery. Happy travels!