"Self-Portraiture as Introspection" In Conversation with Kaila Wyatt
As we head into this transitional season, we explore the act of introspection. For Pre Fall ‘21, photographer Kaila Wyatt turns the camera inward, capturing intimate self-portraits from her home just outside of London. Through self-examination and creative experimentation, she discovers new sides of herself and new modes of personal expression. We chat with Kaila about how being in lockdown reignited her love for photography and why she was particularly drawn to taking self-portraits during that time.
Words: Charmaine Li
Images: Kaila Wyatt
aeyde: How did you initially get into photography?
Kaila: Growing up, I've always been interested in photography but not so much into fashion photography. After I started modeling just over three years ago, what I liked to shoot, and how I liked to shoot it, drastically changed. Then I started to get into analog photography about two or three years ago.
I really started diving into self-portraits during the lockdown because there wasn't a lot else to photograph. It was a fun way to experiment with different things. My boyfriend is a photographer and he helped me to develop the film at home, which was a cool experience. We even created a makeshift darkroom in our bathroom with everything hanging from the shower rod. It's been a learning process and I'm still very new to all this—but I'm having fun with it.
a: Did exploring the practice of self-portraiture teach you anything about yourself?
K: I think shooting self-portraits has made me more comfortable with myself in front of the camera. I love the naked body and I love the look of skin, so a lot of my self-portraits are very raw and intimate. During photo shoots, I can occasionally get quite nervous, and doing the self-portraits has helped me become more comfortable with my own body and the way it looks in front of the camera. I'm learning about different angles and how I like to have my picture taken.
a: What does your process look like? What makes a good self-portrait?
K: Self-portraits are just about you, the camera, and how you want to express yourself. I don't think there's a bad self-portrait. It's a lot about having full control versus just having half of the control of how an image turns out. In a way, I think I like that most about it because it can come out exactly how you want it to. For me, experimenting with a medium format camera has been the funnest way. My boyfriend taught me a lot about shooting with one. When playing around with self-portraits, I love using the shutter release button and being fully in front of the camera without having to use a mirror or anything else.
a: When do you feel most drawn to experimenting with self-portraits? Do you have a routine or are there certain moments when you're particularly in the mood to take them?
K: I think it happens in spurts. At the beginning of lockdown, the self-portraits really fueled my creative need to take pictures, but there were months afterward where I just didn't pick up the camera at all. So I don't really have a routine, it's more like there are phases when I'm feeling creative and have different ideas to try out.
a: The theme of aeyde's Pre Fall '21 Kollektion is 'Introspection'. Did you find that being in lockdown led you to more reflection and looking inward?
K: Definitely. I don't know anyone who wasn't very reflective during their time in lockdown. Even though I was living with my boyfriend—and I was grateful to have him during that time—there were moments when I wanted some time to myself and to reflect. For me, the self-portraits were my creative outlet to do that. I would take the camera to a different room of the house and it would just be me and the camera experimenting with different things. I don't know what I would have done without this creative outlet.
a: As well as a photographer you are also a model. How do you think that side of you informs your approach as a photographer?
K: If I wasn't already a model, I probably wouldn't have started getting into self-portraits. It really started because I wanted to practice being in front of the camera and maybe find different ways of moving that looked nice that I could then translate to future modeling jobs. And then it just kind of took off from there. I started to learn different ways that I preferred moving in front of the camera that I could start doing at jobs. I watch photographers as well. So it kind of goes both ways.
a: Moving forward, what are you excited to explore more of in your photography?
K: I don't know, really. Even though I got super into self-portraiture, I'm hoping that it kind of turns into something else, and maybe I find something new to take pictures of. I do really enjoy taking photos and I don't want to just take pictures of myself all the time. It's just the only source I had during lockdown. I still prefer intimate photos and shooting on analog rather than digitally—not that there's anything wrong with that. I just very much enjoy the old style and the longer process. When things start opening up again, I might try to move more into documentary-style photography, maybe traveling with friends and documenting those adventures.