Nomadic photographer John Kilar on travelling around America's festivals
- Liv Siddall
- 23 September 2014
Photographer John Kilar was born in Istanbul, grew up in California and then settled in Los Angeles, for a bit. He now lives a nomadic life, traveling round with his point-and-shoot camera documenting the world as he sees it with an honesty and pathos and humour which strikes us to the very core. He also has a great way of talking about art and life which is inspiring without being patronising or cheesy; it’s just him doing what he does and calling it as he sees it. Particularly enamoured by his pictures of festivals, we tracked him down in Texas to ask him a few questions…
What type of camera do you use, and what does it mean to you?
I’ve managed to break or somehow fuck up every camera I’ve purchased to this day. I’m currently using a Olympus Infinity Stylus that I found at a thrift store in Seattle for eight bucks. I’m not sure if it works properly since I dropped it and had it heavily rained on in New Orleans but I guess I’ll find out when I get the film developed. It feels like I’m treating the point and shoots as disposable cameras nowadays; using them to document my life for the time being and picking up a new one somewhere along the way when the one I had been using stops functioning.
You said you were a nomadic photographer, how long have you described yourself as that?
For over a year now. I still drop by LA for a bit every now and then but I’ve mainly been on the road. I’m currently in Austin, Texas as I write this.
What do you prefer about the nomadic way of life?
The freedom that it brings. Not being tied down anywhere and being able to get up and leave town as I please. Exploring the unknown. Utilising my manifestation abilities more thoroughly. Also the joy of experiencing new people and environments. It feels lovely to follow my bliss and intuition to see where it leads me.
Some of your shots of landscapes and nature are great, but your portraits are really something. What do you look for in a subject?
I just go about my everyday life and capture anything that visually intrigues me. I adore the freaks and weirdos and everyone who has a sense of individuality. In new cities it’s usually the architecture and street art that stands out to me the most. I’d say I enjoy shooting nature amongst anything else though.
"I hope to inspire people to live their life to the fullest, step outside of whatever bubble they might be stuck in and explore their freedom. There’s so much to do and see out there, especially when you allow yourself to explore the unknown and be vulnerable without any expectations or fear."John Kilar
A lot of your photos are taken in festivals – are there particular ones you find yourself going back to?
I’ve been sneaking into them for years and made the rounds last summer. I made a point of going to more low key, obscure and non-commercial gatherings this summer. The ones I find myself returning to are Rainbow Gatherings, Mutant Fest and Burning Man.
Tell us about the atmosphere at these festivals, and what makes them special?
Most non-commercial ones are always righteous since they’re free, autonomous and pretty DIY. The atmosphere always varies but they all tend to be very laid back, loving and inspiring. You’ll find people blowing shit up and shooting guns at some. It’s all counterculture at the end of the day. And always a great sense of community, and an extremely harmonious and more sustainable way of co-existing. I used to be attracted to them since it felt like a temporary escape from society but I feel like I’ve transitioned to a more permanent escape more or less, even if it’s on and off. I tend to feel a bit jaded nowadays about festivals and it takes a lot to genuinely surprise me but I love going back to see old friends and make new ones.
Has your camera ever got you into any sticky situations?
Not really. You occasionally get people bugging out for having their photo taken but nothing that I can recall that was too sticky.
What do you want strangers to get and take away from your photographs?
I hope to inspire people to live their life to the fullest, step outside of whatever bubble they might be stuck in and explore their freedom. There’s so much to do and see out there, especially when you allow yourself to explore the unknown and be vulnerable without any expectations or fear. I’d also like to empower others to follow their instincts and do what brings them the highest form of excitement without having to conform to what society perceives to be normal and acceptable. I’m excited to collaborate on future projects focusing on nurturing human potential and awakening the masses.
What is the key to life?
To experience, love, create, learn, be grateful, make memories and remember our eternal nature while directing our thoughts a certain way. To quit being perpetually distracted and start looking within. To allow ourselves to perceive the beauty all around us. We’re not here to be sheep or slaves and conform to other peoples expectations. We’re powerful co-creators and have the ability to shape our own realities in any way we choose.
About the Author
Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and worked across online, print and events, and was latterly Features Editor before leaving in May 2015.