Kristin Gallegos : A very specific aesthetic
Kristin Gallegos has her own style, both makeup artist and photographer. It is in a gallery in Soho that I discovered her work for the first time. Intrigued by the character, I went to explore her instagram account and was not disappointed by her offbeat universe. Her silhouette and look reminds me of Cher in the 1960s.
Born in Long Beach, California, she spent her youth practicing classical ballet. After 10 years of practice, she stopped dancing knowing that she wanted to do something creative that didn’t require going to school. Knowing that she was fascinated by the fashion world, someone suggested that she do makeup, a path she had never considered before, even though after years of doing makeup on stage for shows, she was quite good at it. She then moved to New York, where she began to assist and work with the best makeup artists. This training provided her with the essential elements that allowed her to refine her own aesthetic. She worked for over a decade as a leading artist, working with some of the world’s biggest companies, designers, celebrities and photographers.
Her other passion is photography, again without ever considering it as a profession. It was not until very late that she bought her first 35mm camera with which she first captured her friends. Images that she started showing on instagram before being solicited by brands to realize their campaign. This hobby quickly turned into another career as a photographer, as brands and magazines started to commission her. She decided to switch to photography full time in 2016. Today, it’s makeup brush and camera in hand that she immortalizes some of the hottest models. Her influences: The movies of the 60s and 70s whose aesthetics she particularly likes.
Since January 2019, she moved to Los Angeles and now works between the city of angels and the Big Apple. And in 2021, she had two self-published books in a series of four books called “Disappear Here” with two more books to be published soon. A workaholic, she also shoots short films in Super 8 and has lots of cool stuff in the works. To be continued!
Your first photographic click ?
Kristin Gallegos : I took photos of my teenage boyfriend with disposable cameras and Polaroids. He was my first muse. Eventually when I started shooting in New York I used that same Polaroid camera!
The man of images who inspires you?
Kristin Gallegos : One of my all time favorite photographers is David Bailey. His work in the 60’s is so inspiring to me. He got to shoot everyone that is iconic from that time. His studio work and portraits are amazing. And I love his work with his muses that he also dated, Penelope Tree and Jean Shrimpton specifically. Shrimpton and Bailey in New York in 1962 are said to have launched the Swinging 60’s. Those photos are some of my favorites. When I was a makeup artist in New York I had the honor of working with him on a shoot once for a magazine. It was intimidating to say the least. He was a rock star in his day!
I also love Deborah Turbeville’s work in the 70’s in particular. I love that she started off as a fashion editor since I started off as a makeup artist. She got tired of other people not being able to carry out her creative vision. I could relate because I had no creative say on shoots as a makeup artist. As a super creative person it became frustrating. I really love her use of muted tones, the heavy grain and the incredible locations. Her work is haunting and tells a story. Nothing is too perfect, which I love. Her images are very dreamy, dark, and feminine. You can tell they were shot by a woman.
The image you would have liked to make?
Kristin Gallegos : I love Deborah Turbeville’s Bath House series for Vogue in 1975. The one where the models are all wearing white bathing suits. It reminds me of ballet dancers in white leotards in the studio. I did classical ballet growing up until a few years before I moved to New York. Ballet was my first love and definitely inspires my work. I recently shot an homage to my former life as a dancer for my book series ‘Disappear Here’ that I released in 2021.
© Deborah Turbeville
I’m also obsessed with that image of Faye Dunaway having breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel with the Oscar by Terry O’Neill in 1977. She’s reclining in a chair with the pool behind her and the newspapers are spread out everywhere. It’s so Hollywood and so glamorous!
© Terry O’Neill
The one that moved you the most?
Kristin Gallegos : The photo of JFK Jr. as a small child in 1963 saluting his father’s casket has always been so moving to me. A heartbreaking moment in American history and an iconic image that is burned into my brain forever.
And the one that made you angry?
Kristin Gallegos : Most of the content I see on social media every day.
A key image in your personal pantheon?
Kristin Gallegos : A photo from the first book in my series ’Disappear Here’ starring Cora Keegan as The Dancer. It’s one of my favorite photos I’ve taken. The dancer is backstage in the dressing room putting on her stage makeup before a performance. There’s so much color and so much going on in the photo. It also incorporates both of my past careers which I think is special. Cora really looks like a Russian ballerina here. She doesn’t look like herself at all to me. She really took on the character.
The quality needed to be a good photographer?
Kristin Gallegos : In my opinion you have to have a good eye and your own point of view. An aesthetic that sets you apart from the rest. There’s so much generic photography out there today. I personally want people to see my work and know that it’s mine.
The secret of the perfect image, if it exists?
Kristin Gallegos : I don’t think perfection exists. I also love raw images with imperfections. That’s why shooting film is so great. For my book series I also loved creating characters that were flawed. That’s more interesting to me.
The person you would dream of photographing?
Kristin Gallegos : Edie Sedgwick in her silver factory days in New York and David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. Both are so fascinating with their own distinctive aesthetics that they invented for themselves. They are such powerful subjects. I love Billy Name’s photos of Edie and Mick Rock’s photos of Bowie during that time. Mick was a friend of mine and I was very lucky to have worked with him and to have known him. He blessed us with some of the most iconic Rock and Roll imagery of all time.
An essential photo book?
Kristin Gallegos : Birth of the Cool by David Bailey, Cowboy Kate & Other Stories by Sam Haskins, and The Rise of David Bowie by Mick Rock.
The camera of your beginnings?
Kristin Gallegos : Contax T2.
The one you use today?
Kristin Gallegos : Two Contax T2’s, Honeywell Pentax SL, Canon AE1 Program, and a Yashica Mat Medium Format. I also shoot with a Polaroid Big Shot, the same camera Andy Warhol shot all of his portraits on. As well as various other old Polaroid cameras. I shoot with all pretty basic vintage film cameras, nothing fancy! I have a digital but I prefer film all the way. The Yashica and Pentax were actually gifted to me by one of my idols, Debbie Harry of Blondie!
Your favorite drug?
Kristin Gallegos : Coffee and dirty gin martini’s with extra olives.
The best way to disconnect for you?
Kristin Gallegos : Meditation and yoga. I try to meditate every morning if I can because it really centers me and clears my head. My mind never stops racing with all the things that I need to do. So this really helps me to focus as well as disconnect from the world. It has been a game changer. And yoga really helps the mind, body, and soul. It’s a gift, especially to a former dancer.
Your greatest quality?
Kristin Gallegos : As a photographer, I think it’s my style. I am self taught so I wouldn’t say I am the best technically but I think I have a unique personal style and point of view. My aesthetic is cohesive in all aspects of my life. From the way that I look, to my home, to the music I listen to, the films I watch etc. I think all great photographers and directors have a very distinctive style that is their own. Film directors Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson come to mind. And are two of my favorites! It takes a lot of attention to every little detail. I also think I shoot women really well. My photos definitely have a feminine touch.
An image to illustrate a new banknote?
Kristin Gallegos : Andy Warhol looking bored and indifferent at the Factory. Who better to be on a banknote!
The job you would not have liked to do?
Kristin Gallegos : Anything involving working in an office 9-5. I was not meant to have a normal job or a conventional life. My brain just doesn’t work that way.
Your greatest extravagance as a photographer?
Kristin Gallegos : I always shoot dressed up in skirts and dresses with platform boots on. As I mentioned aesthetic and style are important to me in all aspects of my life. I dress the same as I style the models on my shoots. I also do everything on my shoots especially in my personal work. I shoot, style, do the hair and makeup, props, casting, locations etc. I like to create a whole world of my own. Attention to detail is key.
The values you wish to share through your images?
Kristin Gallegos : I want to take someone out of their reality and into a world that I have created so they can escape. My photos tell a story and are shot cinematically. I think of things more in the way of film making. Films inspire me so much. That’s why I named my current book series ‘Disappear Here’. I really want people to escape from their day to day life and away from their problems and reality to be transported to another place. Even if it’s just a temporary distraction. Art should be aspirational and make people dream!
The city, country or culture you dream of discovering?
Kristin Gallegos : I’ve always wanted to go to Spain, Italy, and Morocco. I’ve been so lucky to see a lot of incredible places around the world in my life but work never took me to any of those ciountries. And my family’s origins are in the North of Spain. I’d love to see where I come from one day.
The place you never get tired of?
Kristin Gallegos : New York City. Now that I don’t live there I miss it so much and I try to visit as often as I can. It’s the greatest city in the world!
Your biggest regret?
Kristin Gallegos : I guess I wish I would have gone to photography school and discovered this talent and passion earlier in my life. I’ve taken so many creative paths from ballet to makeup to photography. This was clearly my journey and the path I was meant to take in life. Who knows what my photos would be like without those specific life experiences.
Instagram, Tik Tok or snapchat?
Kristin Gallegos : Instagram is the only one I use or plan to use.
Color or B&W?
Kristin Gallegos : Color! I rarely shoot black and white although I think it’s beautiful. Color really speaks to me. I like creating a specific color palette for my shoots. It’s so important in my work. It helps to set the mood for me and tell a story.
Daylight or artificial light?
Kristin Gallegos : I prefer daylight but I shoot a bit of both!
The most photogenic city according to you ?
Kristin Gallegos : I have only ever really shot in NYC and Los Angeles. I think both have their strengths. The light is superior in LA of course. You cannot beat that magical, golden, end of day light. I used to travel the world doing makeup and the most beautiful city is definitely Paris in my opinion. I need to shoot there as soon as possible!
If God existed would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?
Kristin Gallegos : I’d shoot him in action doing what he does in a day. Not posed and looking at me. More of a day in the life of God.
The image that represents for you the current state of the world?
Kristin Gallegos : People wearing masks and staring at their phones not speaking to each other pretty much sums it up.
What is missing in today’s world?
Kristin Gallegos : I miss the days before smart phones and social media. I miss that genuine real life human connection that I think the world is lacking these days. We are all addicted to those things but it takes you out of the moments with the people you love. That being said it makes our lives easier in so many ways as well. I just wish there was more of a balance.
And if everything was to be remade?
Kristin Gallegos : Really I don’t know.