Noah Kalina: Party of One

I'm on a plane headed for Vancouver sitting in the back row next to photographer Noah Kalina. We're chatting about the Time Traveler's Wife, contemporary photography and our mutual love for authentic Mexican food (which can only be enjoyed in Mexico, naturally). This is the first time I've met Noah in person but I've already seen his face at least 2356 times from his time-lapse video, Everyday. Viewed over 11 million times on YouTube, Everyday is a series a self-portraits taken deligently for a period of 6 years. Yes, 6 years. It's all about control, Janet Jackson styles.

The next time we meet is online to talk about the Puerto Rico project he just finished for enRoute magazine's December issue. It's a Sunday night, right before American Thanksgiving. I'm dreaming about turkey and Noah about Chili's. And it goes a little something like this:


Noah: Is it Reanna Time?
Reanna: It is.
Reanna: Okay so now what? I feel the pressure already.
Noah: Good question.
Reanna: The magazine will be out in December but we recieved them in the office Friday. So far everyone's reaction to your work has been awesome.
Noah: Oh yeah? That makes me feel good.
Reanna: I showed it to some friends. Pretty much everyone laughed out loud but were shocked to find it in enRoute... I mean it's very different for us.
Noah: Wait I get it, this is the interview.
Reanna: Um, yeah... I'm all “journalist like” now, can't you tell? I'm not using my usual vocabulary like, dude and word up.
Noah: Well then continuing on, I love that the response has been so good. I thought the article by Jonathan Goldstein was really funny, so I am glad I was given the opportunity to illustrate it .
Reanna: It is a hysterical article, but would you have done it if the article was bland?
Noah: Yeah for sure, I’ll do anything for money. Plus a trip is always good. I actually prefer cooler climates, but for a story about not having fun, sending me to Puerto Rico was pretty right on.
Reanna: Yes, we sent Corey Arnold to wintery Norway. But that story was about crabs and this one was about a guy alone in the Caribbean retracing the steps of this parent's honeymoon.
Noah: Haha yeah, Corey is a crab expert. If someone asked me to shoot crabs I’d tell then they had the wrong guy and tell them to hire Corey.
Reanna: Hilarious! Corey is the man. So we sent you to Puerto Rico 6 full days.
Noah: I know, that was a long time. And the food was terrible. We ate at Chili’s a couple times because it was the best we could find.
Reanna: Chili's wasn't what it is cracked up to be?
Noah: Every place people said was "the best food" we went to and thought it was gross. Chili’s was our best option!

Reanna: When we first commissioned you to do the piece, we didn't intend on doing self-portraits. It's interesting that it ended up that way. But once I got your selects I couldn't resist. I think the work would have been so different if we didn't go that way. In the end, did you think we would only publish your portraits?
Noah: Yes, that is true, the initial assignment called for portraits of couples around the resort.
Reanna: But then it just turned into Noah Time.
Noah: I was making those portrait shots, or a few of them, as well as shots around the resort. You know, like "travel" photos, since I was like, “oh I am shooting for a travel magazine". But when you guys mentioned how much you loved my Vegas series and how it was the reason why you wanted to work with me, I really just wanted to do self-portraits.
Reanna: This is what most people think of when they work with us, "I’m shooting for a travel magazine. Must be predicatble." But really, when we have a piece like yours, it's the most successful when we push it. Or it ends up like a Club Med advertisement.
Noah: I think you have a Club Med ad from my outtakes! So the first day I went into old San Juan and I noticed all these ridiculous Puerto Rico tourist shirts. I was like, these are retarded. I have to buy a ton of them and take photos of myself wearing them not having fun.
Reanna: Ah ha! So that's how the magic happened.
Noah: Yeah pretty much. You could buy like 2 shirts for 10 bucks. The problem was I didn't buy enough and I felt like I didn't have enough variety. So I ended up buying more at the shop across from the hotel and they were like 25 bucks a piece. I think I paid their rent for the month.
Reanna: I'm lucky to have one of those t-shirts.
Noah: I didn't wear a Puerto Rico shirt in the casino though, I wanted those shots to be more classy.
Reanna: Stay classy Puerto Rico! Random question, Are you listening to music right now?
Noah: I was, I was listening to the "Girls" record, but I turned it off and am watching Storm Chasers on discovery. I love tornados. This show excites me!
Reanna: Maybe you can do a self-portrait storm series: Noah in the rain. Noah in a lightning storm. Noah with snow. (P.S. I get 10% for that idea).

Noah: Okay deal. Have you ever seen self-portrait on roller coaster?
Reanna: It's Hilarious! I love it. So besides enRoute, what other magazines have you shot for?
Noah: Good question. Recently I did a shoot for I.D. I also shoot a lot for ALARM which is a music magazine out of Chicago. I do a lot of portraits of Architects for a magazine called Architect, which is a lot of fun.
Reanna: All lovely magazines. Do you ever worry what will happen to your photos once they are in the hands of an art director? I only ask because sometimes your favorite photos don't always end up in the piece. And sometimes my favorite photos don't end up in the piece....
Noah: I mean, not really. I am like an actor who can't watch their own performance. I do what I can to make my stuff as good as I possibly can. Then once you take it, it is out of my hands. I don't really even like to look when it is published. But with magazines I really like, and like the art direction, I trust they will do what is best. I don't think my photos are so precious you can't touch them.
Reanna: I really love going through the images and seeing how it all fits together. That’s one of the best parts of the job. Sometimes it's like getting little birthday gifts when you open up files… Or a shit sandwich
Noah: Hahaha! Shit sandwiches must suck.
Reanna: Yes, yes they do! But it’s rare. So, did you think the youtube video, Noah Kalina Everyday would be seen by so many? It really put you on the map, yeah?
Noah: Yeah it sorta did and no I didn't.
Reanna: You're like Chocolate Rain but much better!
Noah: Hahaha. I thought like 50 people would watch. Having a viral video is really like having a virus. You never intended to get it and then you are stuck with it for the rest of your life.
Reanna: Ah yes, for sure. I feel like I should do a quick fire of questions. Satrting now! In the Puerto Rico photos are you wearing real ray bans or fake ones from Urban Outfitters?
Noah: Those are the real ones!
Reanna: Did you eat the fruit plate after you shot it?
Noah: Yes. It wasn't that bad. The pineapple was good. I just wanted a plain pineapple. But they chef sent that up the other fruit was tasteless just to add to the crappy food.
Reanna: Do you put your camera on a timer?
Noah: There is the 10-second thing, but Christina helped out.
Reanna: Did you cut your jeans to make shorts or were they already like that when you got there?
Noah: They were already like that they are called jorts.
Reanna: I am a big fan or the jort.

For more Noah time check out his website, Flickr page and blog. Noah Kalina is represented by Red Eye. To read the article in enRoute magazine, go online or jump on an Air Canada flight this December.


supayana said...

Hey Reanna! Tell Noah that Supayana says hi.

Anonymous said...

Reanna does it again! What a great idea for your blog, doing the interview with Noah. Fantastic!!! I saw some of his work, it's hilarious the way he shoots himself. It's like Can you find Aldo? Good questions in the interview and very candid answers. Keep up the good work, you make the day for me.


Reanna said...

Supayana, you know Noah? Crazy talk! Small world m'lady xo.

Mary, thanks for the great comments! Where's Waldo or where's the dude looking bored? Noah's work is fabulous. xpo

Andrea said...

i love this story and photos. a good direction for enRoute. thanks Reanna for posting this interview - when i saw the story i had so many questions about the shoot - and here are the answers. life is so grand sometimes.

Sarah said...

Funny, the other day a friend showed me Noah's video on Youtube. Serendipity? I love this interview. His work is really witty. Great job guys!!!!

Anonymous said...

this is great. thanks reanna

Denise @ Swelle said...

Ha, great interview! Thanks for the introduction! His film is kind of hypnotic, the way his eyes stay fixed on you and his expression remains static while everything else changes. It even spawned copycats, now that's success!

Anonymous said...

There's something hauntingly beautiful about the way Noah captures his subject through the lens.


Coreyfishes said...

Noah Kalina rules the earth.

Reanna said...

And Corey Arnold rules the sea!

seesaw designs said...

awesome. when i have a little more time i'm going to read through all of this!

thanks for the suggestion on the other illustrator :)

kyle said...

Great pictures in that article1 Much better than the usual enRoute photo fodder!