Client Stories: A talk with Kendra Storm Rae, Berlin-based fashion and beauty photographer
Kendra was born in a small town in Canada but decided to move to Berlin after a few visits, networking, and experiencing the city. The German capital’s clubbing scene has a big influence on her work.
Kendra is from a small town in Canada, and before discovering her enthusiasm for photography, she thought she wanted to be a chef. Influenced and motivated by her mother, she joined photography school at Sheridan College, Institute of Art & Technology, intending to become a professional photographer.
Her biggest passion is fashion and beauty photography, having worked with renowned brands, global models, and stylists. After a few years of visiting and networking in Berlin, Kendra decided to move and pursue her career in the German capital. She is very inspired by the clubbing and techno scene, frequently portraying the community’s unique fashion and culture.
Kendra is very present on social media and has joined the RYDE family in 2021 to keep track of her recently discovered unlicensed image use. We had a very nice talk with her about her work, her love for Berlin’s art and techno scene, and unlicensed image use online.
How did you start your professional journey? Did you find photography, or did it find you?
I was actually studying to become a chef. At the time, I thought that was my life dream because I was cooking since a young age. After coming out of school, I worked at some restaurants and realized that it was super male-dominated, and I wouldn’t say I liked it. So I felt like I wasted three years of my life for this that I now hated.
Then, I got a digital camera as a gift from a friend of my mom’s, back when digital cameras first came out, and they were super expensive, tough to obtain. So I got that, and I noticed that I was spending time in my bedroom taking selfies. I had also taken photography in high school before, so it was kind of already there, just waiting to come out for me. But back then, I did not know photography could be a job.
I started taking pictures a lot. One day, my mom came into the backyard when I was sitting there, not knowing what to do with my life. She told me she had found a two-year photography course for me and that after that, I could become a professional photographer.
You are now a fashion and beauty photographer, but you liked cooking before that. You have never thought of becoming a food photographer?
First, the hardest kind of photography is food and product photography. Second, I do not find any pleasure in shooting anything that doesn’t have a human. I mean, I would shoot it, but it’s not what I enjoy. So, I could never become a full food photographer and spend five hours styling a burger. I would lose my mind! But it is one of the highest-paid photography jobs that you can get, and I really respect photographers who do it since it also requires a lot of patience.
You mentioned that one of the reasons you didn’t like cooking school was that it was male-dominated. Did you have the same impression when you entered the photography market?
I went to college for two years for my photography school, and my class was a complete mix of women and men. So, I did not see any difference between genders when I entered the professional market. I really try not to focus on that. I focus on the fact that I’m a photographer, this is my job, and I must hustle.
I am sure that all the male photographers who dominate the market have worked really hard to get to where they are. So, I think it’s just it’s about talent. If you are good, you’re good. And if you are not good, you are not good.
I know it is more male-dominated for sure. But I try not to think about that because I do not want to put those roles on top of my brain and pressure myself even more. Plus, most of the males I have learned photography from have helped me understand how to become a good photographer.
Women still have a long way to go in general, but I think we have to work really hard, and we have to understand how to be strong. It is a learning process. We should also all help each other. That’s the only way I can foresee us. Getting to better positions is when we actually help each other.
After you left the photography school, did you immediately become a professional photographer?
That’s a funny story. So, that wasn't very easy, and it took me a long time to work it out because I was very young and at the same time I wanted to party and travel, I wanted to be a photographer. I didn’t know where and how I wanted to do it, but I was sure I wanted to. I didn’t really want to assist too many photographers as well. I was very stubborn, and I had to find my own way. But then I decided to come to Europe and check out the vibe, and that changed my path from working in Canada and assisting the photographers there. I thought to myself, “where do I fit in in this market, and what do I want to do?”. So that took me a while to work on.
Why did you move from Canada to Berlin?
I wanted to try different places, but it just never happened. I came here because actually, my mom was telling me I should go to Germany. I guess my mom has a big influence on everything. She told me she was in Germany when she was young and that I would really enjoy Berlin since there’s a big art culture in the city. At first, I was like, “why would I go to Germany? That’s so random!” but then I thought about it, did my research, and decided to come to Europe. SoI decided I was going to do something totally random and go to Germany. Then, I came here, and it was a completely different world for me. I just fell in love with it right away.
What would you say are the biggest differences between the photography markets in Canada and Berlin?
From what I notice in Canada, it’s a lot more commercial. There are more working photographers there who are actually getting paid, doing commercial photography for companies or TV shows, etc. In Berlin, I would say it’s more artistic; it’s more about creativity. It’s more true art.
We can see that you are very connected to the fetish and club scene in Berlin through your Instagram account. How did this happen?
I started going to techno parties in Berlin, and before that, I hadn’t. Once I started going to techno parties, it opened my eyes to a whole different reality and freedom. I say I see it as like freedom because, for example, there are some clubs in Berlin you can go to as a woman and you can really be on your own if you want. You’re not going to be bothered by men or anyone else.
It is also freedom of people being able to talk to each other and dress however they want to express themselves. It’s just so much fun. It opened my eyes. I was waiting in lines and just looking at how the people were dressed, which I thought was cool. It’s like kind of a fetish, kind of fashion. You can also see that this is a style developed in the city over the years. So, the techno scene is major inspiring for me — the people, everything that goes around it. I love it so much, and I miss it.
Regarding how I started working with this, it fell from the sky for me. I worked for a year on a book, and it was going to be about fashion and techno. I shot about 90 different people that I would meet at clubs or message them on social media because I thought they were cool. That brought in all the people because I would meet with them, talk with them, and suggest a friend to photograph. I made all the connections during that one year.
We see that you are a lot on social media. How important is it for you to be there? Does it affect the unlicensed image use of your work?
I see social being a big problem in terms of licensed images because many people take images and use them how they feel, and they don’t really understand that those images belong to people and need to ask to use those. So, I foresee in the future it becomes a huge problem because of that reason. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of social media. I know that it is essential to have a social media presence because it is like your business card in today's age. I don’t particularly appreciate that a robot decides who sees your work and who doesn’t. I think that so much effort goes into making that business card. So, I’m not the biggest fan of social media, but I know that I need it.
Before being with RYDE to protect your work, how did you deal with the unlicensed image use? Would you go after them?
I would say this all came up recently. I think when you’ve been shooting for a long time, working with a lot of people, it just gets to a point where you start seeing people taking your images, and it all comes up at once. For me personally, it’s all happening right now.
Since I’ve got on board with RYDE to help me with this, it’s all just hitting me in the face. I would say it’s all a new experience for me, and I’m running into it a lot more than I ever did before, which indicates to me that I’m slowly getting my work seen by more people.
I run into other problems as well. For instance, recently, I have been working with a stylist. Then, the stylist brings clothes, and then the brand thinks they can use this image as well, and I say to them they can’t. But they think they still can. So that’s why I think Instagram can be problematic in the future, with all these companies taking and reusing people’s work and using it for their own benefit to selling. I would say it’s the tip of the iceberg starting right now.
If you are a brand and you are selling a product, you should be educated on copyright. Otherwise, you are digging yourself a hole in the ground because you don’t understand how images work in the business.
There are many young entrepreneurs, and they think they can post this photo and do whatever they want, but they don’t really know about that topic. And I think that’s super important.
What tips would you give a photographer that’s just starting their career now?
My biggest tip would be to shoot on film because that’s how you’re actually going to learn. You will understand manual settings and light. The film is the best way to learn photography. When you make mistakes, you understand you can’t make that mistake again since that would make you lose a frame. It also really trains you to think with your brain and get the proper settings in place before you start shooting. I think if you’re using an automatic setting on a camera, you’re not using your brain to think about the light and the settings, for example.
#14Answers with Kendra
Kendra is super easy-going and has an interesting personality — Scotland was the place on top of her mind (surprisingly not Berlin), and The Hobbit was her book choice. Check it out!
6. Perfect Shot
Something about fantasy
7. A place
8. A Song
Faith by The Weekend
9. A Book
10. A Motto
The universe will guide you
11. A Food