Kevin Novales Interview

I was introduced to the work of Kevin Novales by some mutual friends during a zine event in Long Beach a few years back. Kevin has a subtle and quite demeanor but his work speaks directly to you with color and volume. This is my opportunity to introduce our readers to the work of this talented photographer. Enjoy.

Introduce yourself to our readers. Who you are and what you do.

My name is Kevin Novales, I was born in East Los Angeles to Guatemalan immigrants in 1987. I live in the San Fernando Valley and work a nine to five. I’m a part time photo maker and a photo-zine creator.

What is your current film and camera combo? Why did you choose it? What do you enjoy about it?

I’m currently running Kodak Porta 160 through a Leica M6 with a 28mm lens. I like the way Portra renders colors and enjoy the all around nature of the 160 ISO/ASA. I was watching a William Eggleston documentary when I first saw a Lecia. After doing some research and watching more videos I decided I needed one. Originally I wanted an M5 but a last minute change of heart, I went for the M6. I really enjoy the rangefinder, the weight and the overall simplicity of the camera.

Describe your photographic journey to our readers? How did you start? Why photography? Where are you at now with it?

I think I kind of fell into it. I had an elective to take while trying to be accepted into a film production program. Photography seemed like a good starting point to be thinking about framing and techniques that would be useful in movie making. I went with the introduction to analog photography. Every assignment was shot on slide film and projected onto the class whiteboard.

My unsuccessful attempt at being accepted into the film production program allowed me to take more photography courses. Photography would become my creative outlet. At that point I would take every photo class available to me. From B&W darkroom printing, up to color printing and some Master Photography courses. I really enjoyed every aspect of analog photography. I spent countless hours in the color darkroom printing away in near darkness. Waiting for prints to move through the processing machine was a pain at times but seeing the photo roll out with an image was the best feeling. It became one of my favorite things to do. I spent the majority of my last two school years printing 20×24 prints.

At this point I think I have a better understanding of what I like to see in a photo but I struggle with the same ideas I did when I started. Trying to figure out who I am as an image-maker and the reasons for picking my subject matter. Always trying to learn from the greats and never stop taking photos.

How would you describe the work you produce?

The first thing that comes to mind is mundane, banal, diaristic, and slightly boring. I capture my surroundings, gathering what I stumble upon. I tend to lean towards the unseen, unknown and overlooked.

Your zines are well curated. Tell us the process of making your zines. Where do you start and how does it end.

For the most part I start by looking at files after I’ve been taken photos for a couple of months. After scanning, dusting and organizing I already have an idea of what photos I want to use in a zine. I still go back through all the folders and look for a common theme, helps to give a second look. If I have a title in mind I’ll gather photos according to the title or work the title around the photos. It’s all a draft until everything feels and fits right into place, changes are always made. The most crucial step has to be the photo selection and editing the selection. Knowing when to cut, add or even stop working on the zine all together. I’ll layout the zine in InDesign. Usually work through different drafts before it feels right. I try to work per spread. The pages in the spread need to work together before it can all work as whole. After a mock zine is printed I go through the assembling process, folding, stapling and cutting. I’ll review it for a while before I decide to make it a final version. Once a final version is made I’ll print what I can and maybe start on the next one.

It took me a while to figure this out but zine-making has become an important step in my photo making and editing process.

Who are what inspires your photographic work?

I gather inspirations from movies, photo-books, and other photographers. The Killing Season by Jerry Hsu and all the work Danny Lyon as created. Invisible City and Night Walk by Ken Schles has been big in getting me to take on black and white photography.

Are you much a fan of purchasing zines as you are creating them? Tell us about the last zine you picked up and give us the details about who created it and why you liked it or picked it up.

I love picking up zines. I also love picking up photo-books. I like that I can pick up affordable zine work from people that I admire. Picked up some great zines at LAABF this year. I ended up getting zines from Golden Spike Press, Hamburger Eyes and Apple Sauce Industry. I enjoyed Golden Spike Press color photos and format of the zine. Hamburger Eyes has some of the best-curated zines, you can’t pass on them. Apple Sauce dropped some of the best new and follow up photo-zines at that fair.

In some of your photos I’ve always noticed high saturation of reds and oranges. Is that intentional? If so explain.

The reds became intentional once I started to notice them after scanning a couple rolls. Red always pops and catches your eye no matter what light situation it’s in. I go through different phases and red just happened to be the next color that came up. It all happened from a trip to New York last year. Found myself surrounded by plenty of red light and colors. Once I notice it, I tend to lean towards those colors more than usual.

Sounds like you almost create and edit photos for zines exclusively. How did you figure that out or what made you realize that aspect of workflow?

I think I do but at the same time I feel like I don’t. I mean, at this point that’s all I really have with my photo work. Zine making for the most part replaced printmaking as my creative outlet. They’re both an afterthought while taking photos.

Zines are mini projects with budgets and self-imposed deadlines. You can only fit so much in a zine before it gets out of hand. Also the added pressures of making sure you’re putting your best work forward every time. You’re aiming for a reaction and putting yourself in a vulnerable place by sharing the work. After the first couple zines, I could see them getting smaller, having a clearer vision and an overall better look. I think that’s when I realized it had become part of my workflow.

Are there any upcoming projects or events that you are doing, are apart of?

Currently working on two collaborations with two other photographers. The projects are still in the early stages but both have a solid foundation. I’m pretty excited about what we’re trying to accomplish.

You can find me manning a table at this years LA Zine Fest. You can find me under the SleepTalk name. Stop by say hi, talk photo stuff and look at some photo-zines.

Any last words for our Snapshot readers?

Don’t worry about how many rolls you didn’t shoot today. Also thank you for reading some terrible writing and for looking at some random dudes photos, thank you.

Give Kevin Novales a follow on Instagram via @kevinnovales for all new works.