MEMBER MONDAYS | Erin Kuykendall
is the Editor-in-Chief of The Audacity, a publication composed of artists, activists, and storytellers produced in ATX. With their 5th Issue being released this Saturday, we got a chance to catch up with Erin about the publication's origin and deep dive into how she and her team craft each issue.
Can you tell us how The Audacity got started, and what your vision has been as editor-in-chief?
Erin Kuykendall: I was working for another fashion magazine here in Austin, and decided that it felt rather unconscionable to continue creating ‘denim on denim’ stories in our extremely troubling sociopolitical climate. I loved creating in this capacity (photoshoots/magazine world), but wanted to talk about something that mattered. I wanted to push the industry, and myself, and prove that art can be beautiful and active. As the project has developed, it has turned into such an important part of my and the team’s activism—it’s a ‘do’, not just a ‘say’. I’m also getting my masters in art history at the moment, and I credit that training as far as The Audacity’s aesthetics go.
Your team is composed of yourself, Moses Lee (layout), Melina Perez (creative director), Maiya Evans (social media), and Ebanie Griffith (events). What kind of style and process do you carry out with your team to produce an issue?
EK: Yes, that’s our core staff, and we always have a host of collaborators for each issue. Before the start of each issue, we get together and ask, “What are you mad about?” That extends to our audience, too, and we always try and listen to our readership. The Kill Bill shoot for example, was a direct result of a friend expressing her anger at the flat representation of Asians in the media. Once we have a basic way to express what it is that enrages us, we try and think of a way to articulate that in an interesting and creative way.
Your images are highly visual that definitely makes us stop and observe - how do you come up with these ideas and communicate your vision to the photographers, stylists, and models?
EK: Again, rage is really what fuels us (haha). We’re never out of ideas because the world will never be what we want it to be—I know that’s rather fatalistic, but it’s what keeps us creating. We work really hard when we’re planning the shoot to develop a vocabulary that will translate to the collaborators (models, photographers, etc). A lot of time is spent in pinpointing exactly what we want, and doing the research on the subject at hand. For example, in our Heroine series (which is based off of women we admire in literature who never received the respect they were due), we take pains to explain to everyone on set exactly what the storyline is, why we care about them, and how we can get this to resonate visually. The energy is so high on set—I think our enthusiasm and passion translates well to everyone, and we just keep trying until we all feel the magic.
We love that your publication focuses on female empowerment specifically, intersectional feminism, identity, and sexuality. And you link powerful excerpts and personal literature to the images you produce. Do you often write first and then plan out the images or is it a free form process when it comes to creating these narratives?
EK: For the articles that accompany the photo shoots, we generally start with a ‘prompt’, so we know what kind of direction we’d like the writing to go in before we start. We know what we’re trying to say with the images and then leave it to the writer to translate it. How this generally works, is that we pull from people who have applied to write for us or reach out to people whose writing we admire, and let them know about a shoot we’re about to do or have just finished. We’ll say, “we did this because we hate the president, and wanted to compare him to the evil presence in The Shining—how does that makes you feel?” and see where they take it. It’s a great way to hear other people’s perspectives and enforce a spirit of collaboration.
We're especially a fan of the “Is There No Truth in Beauty?” piece in your last issue (Issue 4). The art you created with the faces are really alluring. How did the aesthetics for this come together?
EK: Thank you! That was the genius of Maiya, head of social media and one of our favorite makeup artists. She mentioned that she wanted to talk about the bizarreness of beauty, the pain involved; the way we’re all married to maintaining the illusion of our images. She came up with the three look ideas and we just played around on set until we got to a good place with them. Being on set is the best feeling—like an infinite playground.
Your work challenges social norms and expectations, which is really admirable and essential. What are some things outside of The Audacity that fuels you to continually push boundaries and create?
EK: Existing as a woman in the world. Trying to listen to and empower the voices of people of color, queer people, and other abused groups whose experiences are different than mine. The daily injustices faced in this insane world we’re living in, and fighting the feeling of powerlessness. The need to get up and DO something about it, no matter how small it might seem. Additionally, the response that we’ve gotten since we began this project—people are watching us.
When can we expect Issue 5 to come out, and how can we get our hands on a copy?
EK: Issue 5 is coming out on May 4th! We’ll be having a release party that night where everyone can pick up the copies they have ordered (order here!). It’s at The Brixton on East 6th—watch our social media for updates on what we’ll have planned!
What do you hope readers/viewers will take away from your publications?
EK: A sense of hope. That’s our biggest goal--that they see themselves and their concerns reflected in our pages and feel heard, that they see possibilities for themselves in creative industries, that they know we’re fighting and will continue to fight and they can join us and will be welcomed.
INTERVIEW BY: Janet Lee
MEMBER MONDAYS is a weekly interview series highlighting current members & alumni of the Austin School of Film + Austin Cinemaker Space community! Each week, we’ll be featuring one of our incredibly eclectic community members and take a deep dive into their work. Gaining an insight into what makes them, them.