We had the good fortune of connecting with Kirby Mekler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kirby, how do you think about risk?
I’ve never been big on risk. I’d spent my entire adult life chasing fulfillment in various “safe” jobs. Needless to say, none of them did it for me. When I found myself ready to start a family, I realized I couldn’t keep that up. I didn’t want my kids to grow up with a mom who was miserable, and perhaps more importantly, I didn’t want to be miserable. So I decided it was time to take a risk on a career I was actually passionate and excited about. Despite the inherent risk of pursuing self-employment in a creative field, however, I inched my way towards this change in the least risky capacity possible. I kept my day job while hustling off the clock. I wanted to retain some amount of control over the level of risk I had to take. Eventually I’ll have to up the ante, but it was helpful to me to have some financial stability while laying the groundwork for my business.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Oddly enough, my main focus as a photographer is food. It’s a niche area, but someone’s gotta do it! I ended up getting into food photography because I’d started a blog and realized that taking pictures of food was no easy feat. My recipe photos were pretty embarrassing. So I set out to learn everything I could about food photography in an effort to create better content for myself. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with it. I developed a vibrant and adventurous style, and constantly challenged myself with new techniques and subjects. I still do, actually. There’s always more to learn, and new ways to stretch yourself creatively. Especially if you’re self taught, like I am. One thing you don’t realize when jumping into the world of freelance is that in addition to whatever craft you bring to the table, you have to learn the business side of things. No one is going to do it for you, at least at the beginning. You have to become adept at reading contracts, negotiating terms, marketing, advocating for yourself, and my personal favorite, asking for money. It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking on unpaid work just for the experience. Especially as a blogger or influencer dealing with brands who think it’s ok to offer product in exchange for work and “exposure”, even though you’re the one with the platform. But it’s important to know your worth and ask for it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LA gets a bad rep because of how expensive and congested it is, but the way I see it, that’s only because of how much it has to offer! One of my favorite things about this city is its proximity to nature. If I had to create a weeklong itinerary, it’d highlight some of my favorite places and areas, natural and manmade alike. A hike in Angeles National Forest and a day at a dramatic cliff lined beach (my favorite is El Matador) would definitely be in the mix. I’d also dedicate a full day to downtown LA, including a visit to Grand Central Market or Smorgasburg for lunch, a quick jaunt over to The Last Bookstore, a trip to the Broad or MOCA to check out some art, and some time exploring Little Tokyo and the Arts District, including dinner at Manuela or Marugame Monzo. Oh, and then of course ice cream at Salt and Straw followed by karaoke at Max Karaoke Studio! Another day might include the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, which I love even though it’s located in my least favorite area. I would be remiss if I didn’t include some time in my own neighborhood, Highland Park. The day would involve coffee and brunch, browsing small shops, and maybe a puppet show at the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre or bowling at Highland Park Bowl. The other two days might be dedicated to a trip to the San Gabriel Valley for dumplings and boba or some time at a garden (Descanso Garden and Huntington Library are both beautiful)!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’ve been really lucky to build an incredible network of food bloggers and photographers on Instagram! A group of us actually started a project called Food Capture Collective, where we challenge photographers with a different theme every month. My Food Capture Collective teammates are all sublimely talented and wonderful people. In addition to working incredibly hard to hone their own skills, they’re always happy to share knowledge, whether it’s in regard to business or technique!
Main photo is taken by Ben Mekler