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Department Of Design

Department of Design Alum Kiana Bates Embraces Her Cultural and Religious Heritage Through Tintype Photography

Kiana Bates ‘22 Offers Advice and Shares Recent Photography Projects

Photography has the power to capture a moment and hold it frozen in time. It allows the viewer to look into the past and celebrate what once was. Kiana Bates, who graduated from BYU in 2022 with a BFA in photography (now photo- & lens-based design), utilizes different styles and techniques to maximize the everlasting power of photography.

During her time as an undergraduate, she created her own wedding photography business which she continues today. While her wedding photography has landed her a feature in the prestigious Utah Valley Bride Magazine, her interests and projects center on everything from her Japanese grandmother, cowboys and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temples.

Bates has highlighted her Japanese heritage in multiple projects including her shoot featured in Utah Valley Bride Magazine and an exhibition held in the BF Larsen Gallery. Her Japanese heritage is also closely intertwined with her family’s membership and belief in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Most of my work is focused on preserving and highlighting cultures—my own or others,” Bates said. She gains much of her inspiration and motivation from her family. “I have so much gratitude for all that my grandmother has sacrificed. She wanted to go to college but instead she brought my mother and uncle to the United States [from Japan].” Bates’ grandmother, Reiko Taguchi, accompanies her on some of her photoshoots. “Spending more time with my grandma helps me realize how much she gave up in her life so that I can live my dream of working in the arts. [Gratitude] is my main motivation, whether it is reflected directly in the work or not.”

Now working as an adjunct faculty member at BYU, Bates said, “It's such a privilege to be able to weave my testimony of Christ into my work because it shapes everything in my life. I can’t imagine trying to teach without incorporating the gospel.” She believes that the principles taught and learned at BYU are “unmatched anywhere else.” In the classroom, Bates often incorporates the gospel concept of the “Light of Christ” or of “Christ being the light” into photography lessons on lighting theory and technique.

Kiana Bates’ Tintype Photo of the Provo Temple
Kiana Bates’ Tintype Photo of the Provo Temple
Photo by Kiana Bates

One of Bates’ current undertakings is photographing all of the Latter-day Saints temples in Utah. For this project, she is using tintype photography — a technique she learned from her professor Paul Adams in an alternative processes class at BYU. She loved tintype photography so much that she bought her own gear. Her uncle even made her a portable dark box so that she can take and develop the photos on site rather than in a studio.

“What sparked my temple project was the demolition of the Provo Temple,” Bates said. “Tintype is the most historic and long-lasting photo type. Each photo is a unique image. I really enjoy it because it's such an archival process. So, even though the temple is gone now, it’ll last [through my photos].” Under proper care, tintype photos can last over 100 years. Next, she wants to photograph the Payson, Manti and Salt Lake temples. For the Salt Lake Temple, she plans to take photos during renovation and after completion.

Bates continually found inspiration and motivation for new projects post-graduation. She said that maintaining the friendships she had cultivated during her time at BYU has helped her generate project ideas and be accountable.

She said, “We get together once a month to ask questions and share what we’re excited about. It's fun to hear about what they're working on and what's inspiring them.” She recommends that recent graduates go to art exhibitions and shows to stay up to date with what is being made in the industry. “Getting out of my house and trying something new always inspires me.”

When asked to give advice to students, recent grads and aspiring photographers, she said, “Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and try something new. We get too into our heads — just start something and you’ll be guided. If you’re new, most people you reach out to are very kind.”

A saying that Bates likes to abide by in her career is, “God can’t guide you if you’re standing still but if you’re moving, he can guide you.” She also firmly believes in the adage, “You’ll get what you put in.” Bates said, “If you put in effort and use the resources and stay in contact with faculty, you’ll go farther. Be generous with your connections and time and be kind to people.”