by Wesley Kays-Henry
Chicago-based photographer Kristyna Archer creates photographs steeped in psychology. Her work reflects the everyday contradictions and idiosyncrasies of life, which results in thoughtful portraits that explore intangible feelings. She describes her photographs as “colorful and bold, with dark undertones,”—deeply thoughtful body of work with tongue-in-cheek humor.
TimeOut Chicago Kids contacted Kristyna after receiving a promo of her beauty portraits. The print mailer had featured four portraits each visually describing a different “red” emotion: euphoria, elation, rage and fury. They connected with her style and reached out to see if she’d be interested in photographing two young boys who’d started charities to help young people work through hardships.
The boys have gone through hard times themselves, so their charities aim at helping other children focus on positivity. Acey Longly, 8, lost his father in a pyrotechnics accident before he was born. Acey’s dad was in a popular band, and playing the drums gives him a feeling of connectivity with the father her never met. He found so much joy in music that he began donating drumsticks and various instruments to children in the oncology floors of local hospitals in Illinois, calling the project B.E.A.T.S. (Bringing Everyone A Tremendous Smile). Jack O’Neill, 9, was born with kidney and spinal abnormalities. His time spent in-and-out of hospitals inspired him to donate toys to hospitalized children, giving them a distraction and the warmth of knowing someone cares. His charity, Little Hands Make a Big Difference, donates Build-A-Bears, hosts summer lemonade stands and even raised $10,000 last year as part of a 5K/Kids Fun Run.
Kristyna had photographed children on a number of occasions, but had never been given the task of making them look heroic, mature or serious before. She was thrilled at the opportunity to work with these introspective and altruistic young people. The scheduling with two active young boys and their families was tough, considering she had to set up the shoots in their houses. But after planning to work around school and sports schedules, the shoot went smoothly. Kristyna found it interesting, and even inspirational, to see these kids saying the most insightful and honest things, making themselves completely vulnerable, and then turning around and making fart noises with their armpit. “It’s as if they are only capable of functioning in the extremes,” which goes well with Kristyna’s over arching theme of the work. She goes on to compare the children’s self-awareness to the rest of society, and concludes that, “the best way to live is completely carefree”.
According to Kristyna, the hardest part of the shoot was capturing the “decisive moment” of honesty and maturity with kids who naturally just stand up straight and smile when a camera comes out. She got some great portraits, which were used by TimeOut in print and online. She was very inspired by the story and took the project further by asking the boys to write out why they started their charities, and what it meant to them, which she then displayed beside their portraits on promo pieces. Kristyna wanted to not only show these amazing kids, but to also show their story in their words, making it much more personal than it would be otherwise. This assignment was special to Kristyna, who says that it reminded her of the saying, ‘the more you give, the more you receive’—”we all need subtle reminders of why we love what we do,” and this job was it.
View more of Kristyna’s work at kristynaarcher.com.