We had the good fortune of connecting with Summer Kais and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Summer, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
“The camera therefore is an eye capable of looking forwards and backwards at the same time. Forwards, it does in fact “shoot a picture”, backwards, it records a vague shadow, sort of an x-ray of the photographer’s mind, by looking straight through his (or her) eye to the bottom of his (or her) soul. Yes, forwards, a camera sees its subject, backwards it sees the wish to capture this particular subject in the first place, thereby showing simultaneously THE THINGS and THE DESIRE for them. If, thus, a camera shoots in two directions, forwards and backwards, merging both pictures so that the “back” dissolves in the “front”, it allows the photographer at the very moment of shooting to be in front with the subjects, rather than separated from them. Through the “viewfinder” the viewer can step out of his shell to be “on the other side” of the world, and thereby remember better, understand better, see better, hear better, and love more deeply.” This quote from Wim Wenders’ book, Once, is a reminder of why I take pictures. The camera, for me, is a way to connect. It gives me access to places and people that I would not otherwise be able to engage with. Artists are always creating representations of themselves, and that is something I always think about when I photograph.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Photographs are seductive. They feed our imagination and offer the possibility of excitement and adventure. They can have a spellbinding effect on viewers. It is for those reasons that I fell in love with photography. My uncle introduced me to my first camera when I was 16 years old. It was 1996 and film was still dominant. It was only 24 years ago, but the technology had not changed much for more than a century. I never had a darkroom, but I was always amazed by the amount of effort and labor that went into capturing one moment in time. Things have changed a lot since then. I decided to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art at UC Irvine with an emphasis in photography. I opened my first studio in downtown San Diego in 2003, and subsequently spent three years in New York City before returning to San Diego in 2013. I work out of my downtown studio and on location. One of the biggest challenges for me early on was trying to figure out what makes my work unique, and leaving that personal mark on my commercial work. It was always important for me to make time for personal projects. Doing personal work allowed me to experiment, make mistakes, push myself, and find my voice. The camera empowers me. It gives me the power to invoke, inform, and inspire, and gives me the ability to take something permanent and satisfying from every encounter.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many great places to visit in San Diego. Here are some of my favorites: Coffee shops – Achilles Coffee, Lofty Coffee, Communal Coffee. Food – Banker’s Hill Bar and Grill, Mister A’s, Farmer’s Table in Little Italy, The Taco Stand, Salt ‘n Straw. Hangouts – Little Italy, Liberty Station, Balboa Park, Old Town, and local art shows. Beaches – Coronado and La Jolla. Museums – Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My parents and my husband deserve all the credit. I wouldn’t be able to do what I am doing today without their unwavering love and support.