Megan K. Photography | Buzz Blog

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Megan K. Photography

Exploring the work of one of SLC's premiere event photographers

Posted By on May 7, 2017, 8:00 AM

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Sometimes when you see a live event online, the photo just doesn't do the experience justice. Trust me, I know; I take plenty with my phone, and I read your comments. (It's a blog, guys! I know my limits.) But when you have a photographer who knows exactly what they're doing and can get the best possible pictures, it feels like you're right there with them. Which is what makes the work coming from Megan K. Photography so awesome, as she's able to capture live concerts perfectly. Today we speak with Megan herself about her career and work, while looking at some fine examples she's snapped over the years. (All photos provided courtesy of MKP.)

Megan Kennedy
click to enlarge MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography

Gavin: First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Megan: I was born and raised here in Salt Lake City. I’ve been creating weirdo stuff since I was a little girl in some medium or another. I started shooting local shows in my early 20s and spent five years at SLUG Magazine as a photographer and senior staff writer, working mostly with the world of metal, but also delving into many other areas in my coverage over the years, like geek and art culture. I’m a published fiction and academic writer, and have BA degrees in History and Religious Studies, and training in archaeology. I also run a studio for fine art photography and digital art, Abuse of Reason Art & Photography, that has been commissioned internationally by authors, publishers and musicians. When I have free time, I’m camping, gaming or hunting for bones in the mountains.

click to enlarge Aeon - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Aeon

What first drew you into art as a kid and inspired you to create?

My imagination has always been on fire. Writing was the first creative endeavor I picked up. I started some casual photography in junior high, but art as a focus began in earnest in my late teens after enduring a lot of instability and trauma in my life. Dark art saved me by providing me an outlet for all the unsavory emotions and thoughts left behind by being an unsupported victim of sexual assault. I didn’t know when I started creating art that I had PTSD, and that my art was part of my brain’s desperate attempt to keep going after it had been traumatized. Fortunately, I had enough of my natural ambition left, despite the exhausting trauma, to try and turn what I was creating into something bigger: a business, a life I could live, even a calling. I’ve been really lucky to have people react so positively to my work, and lucky to have found supportive friends and colleagues in the industry. Being able to create something beautiful out of horrible situations is about the luckiest thing I can imagine.

click to enlarge Slayer - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Slayer

How did you eventually become interested in photography?

Photography has drawn me for a long time, and as an introverted person who really enjoys observing and learning, it’s the perfect creative outlet. When I was a teen, I became an early internet geek, focused on learning the ins and outs of the pop industry, and wanted to be a publicist or some other backstage position supporting the music I loved. Once I found heavy metal, all that interest and obsession for the music industry just transferred over to this new, beautiful, angry world—I wanted to support and help keep it alive. First, I began offering my digital art skills to bands for album and flyer work. After I received my first digital camera, I started shooting live shows and fell in love with the process. I created the Abuse of Reason studio to house all my work, and joined the team at SLUG from 2011-2015, shooting everything from local house shows to fests like Crucialfest and Mayhem Fest to Salt Lake Comic Con and Anime Banzai. The energy at live shows and fests and cons is electric and can be overwhelming, but being behind the camera provides me with a perfect shield to absorb what I want, turn it into something awesome and be beautifully drained afterward.

click to enlarge Cattle Decapitation - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Cattle Decapitation

What was it like for you learning the craft over the years, both on your own and through school?

I’ve only ever taken one full photography course in my life—and that was a blow-off college course after I was already at a professional level—so I don’t have much to say about a traditional learning environment for photography. My first swing at college in my early 20s was for fine art photography, and I quickly got bored by the attempts to confine my creative work into something that can be graded, hence eventually getting degrees in other areas. My entire history with photography has been gained by jumping in the fire—taking any hand-me-down and shitty gear I could get, reading tutorials, practicing every weirdo idea I had and finding some way to make it work despite the technical setbacks. I come from a low-income family where I’m the only artist; I had no choice but to make my circumstances work for me, with little support, or quit. I’m sure it’s taken me longer than some to get to the level I’m at because of the setbacks of this trial-and- error lifestyle, but the plus side is that I get the satisfaction of going into projects with my unique worldview and take, and don’t have to feel obligated to any mentor or style or what have you. I’ve never been attracted to the technicality of photography. I do it to feel good or not at all.

click to enlarge Salt Lake Comic Con - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Salt Lake Comic Con

How was it for you getting involved with freelance work around town?

A bit tricky, as all freelance work is, in my opinion. Photography is maybe as oversaturated a position as being a musician, and in Utah’s culture, the type of photography I do isn’t the type that is appealing to most of the population. I’ve got zero interest in shooting weddings or newborn babies, even if that’s where the money is. I want to work with and help the careers of bands, authors, artists and other creatives. But shooting for bands and other artists presents its own challenges. The hierarchy of value that capitalism promotes puts artists and creatives at the bottom; artists, sadly, then re-create this hierarchy in our own subculture, deciding that some of our creative talent is inherently more valuable than others. It’s hard sometimes to convince a band that a professional image package is worth the investment when they think my work can be replicated by some relative in their life who happens to own a digital camera. It’s tricky to get large event jobs when events want your work and talent, but only if you participate as a volunteer for no pay. It’s a struggle. In the end, professional imaging does matter to a band or event, and most people will learn that the hard way, and photographers like me will be around to hire once they figure that out.

click to enlarge Making Fuck - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Making Fuck

What made you decide to start up your own photography business?

I’ve spent the last five or six years working almost non-stop on building up my skills, networks and experience. I was working a part-time day job, going to school full-time, doing jobs for SLUG, performing freelance art design jobs, working on my own creative projects, writing and presenting huge research papers, traveling on archaeology digs—basically trying to soak up every experience I could get. A lot of that hit the brakes hard once I graduated in 2015, and like most grads I spent my time directly after trying to figure out how to advance my life to a new stage, as well as generally surviving as a creative person. I resigned from SLUG and took a break from shows, and spent time resting, reading, exploring, being social, trying to allow myself to relax from the last few years of non-stop work. I needed to reassess how I was approaching all my work without the structure of school. Early this year, I decided to branch off my concert and event photography from the Abuse of Reason studio in order to better target clientele in both areas, and so Megan K. Photography was born. And I couldn’t be happier with the warm reception for the new brand. The decision has already paid off immensely.

click to enlarge Persephone - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Persephone

What subjects do you prefer shooting, both in the studio and around town?

Fast-paced events like concerts or fests are my ultimate favorite. I love shooting people while they’re performing their own passionate creative work; I love documenting the exciting, memorable moments we share together as fans at cons. There’s nothing as soothing to your ego as a photographer than to get a golden shot when all the variables—lighting, movement, crowds—are working against you, as they often are in scenarios like that. You have to be on your toes, paying attention; you have to be empathetic enough to recognize what kind of moments are going to resonate with people viewing your photos; and you have to be skilled enough to capture them, preferably without anyone even being aware you were doing it. That’s the shit I live for.

click to enlarge Cult Leader - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Cult Leader

What kind of gear do you shoot with these days?

I’m not much of a gear-head. Since I came from a low-income family, I had to learn to work with whatever I could get my hands on, and that kind of “survivalist” habit dies hard. Currently, I’m working with a Nikon D5200, and my preferred lens is a 50mm prime. Part of my shooting style is producing an intimacy with the subject, even as they’re in a room full of screaming fans, and the prime allows me that kind of framing and focus. I shoot a lot of DIY local shows that have space to get right up next to the musicians, which are my favorite kind of conditions to shoot. Festival and arena shows are fun, too, but inherently more impersonal.

click to enlarge Thorgy Thor - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Thorgy Thor

What's the process like for you during a shoot in finding the photos for your subjects?

Since I haven’t done a lot of model-based work yet, I haven’t had to deal with that problem much. I’m also lucky in that my network already includes wonderfully talented models for the times I need them. Just a few weeks ago, local models Ariana and Haley Grow joined me for a Persephone-themed shoot for a birthday project that turned out beautifully. But as far as shooting events or concerts goes, typically all I have to do is show up to a local concert and I’ve got plenty to do. Local shows are great for practice since they rarely require press passes or have the three-song shooting limit.

click to enlarge Despite Dispair - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Despite Dispair

How has it been for you also taking part in art exhibits around town?

It’s been really incredible to participate in Salt Lake’s one-of-a-kind art scene. As a dark artist, I spent a lot of years with no audience—or at least an online-only, isolated audience—so to find a bigger connection with people in my own city, to be validated by my own art community, is deeply satisfying. Having PTSD means I will struggle to make emotional connections with even the most important people in my life. So It’s basically indescribable when a perfect stranger picks up one of your pieces that represents the darkest and most traumatic of your emotions and says, “Wow, I feel for this, this is beautiful, and I want it in my home.” It’s like a secret backchannel of human communication. I don’t have to stress or engage with my actual memories; they don’t even have to know my name. But for that moment, and through that art piece, we understand each other. It’s absolutely wonderful.

For those who wish to work with you on anything, what do they need to do?

Just email me! I’m always looking for new adventures and ideas and creative projects. I can be reached at Both Abuse of Reason Art and Megan K. Photography have their own Facebook and Instagram pages (@abuseofreasonart and, and I’m very active on Twitter.

click to enlarge Slipknot - MEGAN K. PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Megan K. Photography
  • Slipknot

What can we expect from you and Megan K. Photography over the rest of 2017?

I’m proud to say I will have art featured in three separate galleries around the city in the next seven months. I’ll be traveling around the country to add more prints to the Grave Kid Series, a combo of artistic photography and historical research centered around cemeteries and other creepy spots. I’ll hopefully continue to be a regular photographer at the monthly drag shows at Metro Music Hall, which has been an exciting new addition to my repertoire. And I’ve just begun working in conjunction with The Satanic Temple Utah Chapter to produce a monthly religious education lecture series—our first talk was very well-attended and received, and our next topic, the Mountain Meadows Massacre and Mormon Extremism, will take place on May 27. 2017 has already been smashing, and I’m stoked to see what surprise adventures the second half brings.

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