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Photography Grad Kiana Bates on Telling Stories Through Photography

Kiana Bates will graduate in April 2022 with a BFA in photography

Kiana Bates

Why do you create/participate in photography?

Photography helps me appreciate life. It has the ability to memorialize people, places, moments and feelings in a visually interesting way. I have always been a sentimental person, and photographs help me remember the things I don't want to forget. Being able to document in this way for myself and for other people brings me so much joy.

What inspires you?

I am deeply inspired by my Japanese heritage, relationships between people (romantic, platonic, familial, etc.), nature, color, cowboys and Asian cultures. I love learning new things about people and cultures and having the chance to photograph them.

How have you found belonging during your time at BYU?

The photography program is very tight-knit, and one thing that makes this program different is the ability to truly get to know one another through our work. I have found belonging in this special group of people as we have opened up to each other, comforted each other in times of struggle, spent hours working on projects together outside the classroom, celebrated successes and helped each other grow. I genuinely feel like I have been able to find my people here at BYU.

What’s your go-to study snack?

The chicken craisin croissant sandwiches in the vending machines have gotten me through many hours in the darkroom and studio. Not sure if they'd be considered a snack or a meal, but they have come through for me every time.

What was your favorite project you worked on as a student?

Last year I learned how to make tintypes, or wet-plate collodion photographs, a process that dates back to the Civil War era. Photos taken with this process are able to capture people in a way that no other method can—it has been said that you can almost see into a sitter's soul when looking at a tintype portrait. I knew that I wanted to document my grandmother, my mother, myself, our multi-generational relationship and our Japanese heritage through this process. This project is special to me because of the time I was able to spend working with my grandma in making the images, and because they are photos I will cherish and display for the rest of my life. They embody my love of my family heritage and our familial bond.

Who is your favorite artist and why?

I don't have a favorite artist, but I find myself drawn to different styles in different seasons of my life. When I first started the photography program I was really interested in fashion photography. Recently I find myself drawn to documentary photography and photos that tell a story. I love photographs of older people. They just have so much character. These days I am hoping to tell more of a story through my photos rather than making something pretty.

What are your aspirations/goals for the future?

I hope to continue to grow my wedding photography business, having bases in Utah and Arizona, and serving clients around the country and Japan. I recently started photographing rodeos and would love to work toward getting a PRCA photography card to shoot rodeos around the country in my free time. Ultimately, I want to keep photographing professionally while raising a family, shooting personal work and owning a few cows.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.