Maker Profile: Kaley From Kansas

Midwest photographer Kaley Kocinski is the creative force behind the Midwest-based blog Kaley From Kansas. Her ethereal work focuses on honest, intimate portraits, and has amassed a following from all over the world. Join us as Kaley talks about the creative community, her desire to travel and her love of storytelling that drives her work. 


All photos courtesy of Kaley Kocinski

All photos courtesy of Kaley Kocinski

What started your fascination with photography?

My fascination with photography started at a young age - about 10. I moved around quite a bit as a kid and knew that fostering friendships wasn't really going to happen, so I figured I would photograph friends and memories to remember. To put it simply, I knew I was fascinated with people and it just went from there.



Did you receive any formal training, or are you self-taught?

I would say a little of both- I am definitely a visual learner so going to workshops and learning from peers and photographers I looked up to was probably my biggest form of training. However, I did attend Kansas State University where I received a BFA in Fine Art Photography. I started with film and branched off into digital my junior/senior year.

Nowadays, I love to experiment, so I have been teaching myself new ways to make photographs using different techniques, composition, light and movement.



What draws you to portraiture? 

To put it simply, I am fascinated with people. I love finding a connection, a sense of vulnerability and authenticity in who I am photographing; whether that be a mother, a couple, a family or a maker. 

When shooting portraits, you really get to know someone and you see firsthand what makes them who they are; their mannerisms, their quirks, their flaws and who alongside them makes them happiest.



What first planted the seed for the idea of Kaley From Kansas? 

Ultimately, it was just a conversation I had with my dear friend, Brooke. She was helping me with my re-brand and we were trying to come up with a new photography identity. I had already had Kaley from Kansas as my Instagram handle and she suggested merging them! I'm so happy I did. I think it represents me and it sticks with you, which is a bonus! It's also fun to say. 



What do you love about being a part of a digital creative community like Instagram? What are the challenges it poses? 

Instagram is where I get 90% of my work. I have also made so many friends and relationships that I could never have gotten otherwise (mainly because of distance.) It has presented me with opportunity after opportunity just by people being able to see my work through this small-square platform. It's the best way to collaborate or at least put an idea out there to collaborate with someone you're inspired by, but you could never go to their door or their workplace and ask them to because of where they live. I have worked with people all over the world now and most times it's because one of us has reached out to the other or we have met by chance while traveling.

Granted, there are parts about Instagram that are challenging & frustrating like the algorithm. Ever since the algorithm, my work is getting fewer views and it is much harder to view people's work organically. 

Overall, it's an amazing outlet and I love how you can combine visual elements with writing. It's a way for people to share their thoughts and feelings about a certain photograph. Honestly, lately, people have just been putting funny puns or jokes about their day, which is kind of hilarious.

I'm not so much about an amazing caption as I am about a captivating image.



What are your feelings on the Kansas City creative community, and the changes both it and the city have undergone in recent years?

I believe that Kansas City's creative community is growing SO much. I have gotten to work with some incredible people and incredible businesses the past couple of years! More so in the last year. I think that collaboration is finally developing here... I see artists collaborating all the time and I love when multiple vendors get together and create magic. I also love the new workspace(s) that are getting built like WeWork! It gives creatives a chance to work alongside each other and inspire one another in the same space.



When did travel become a part of your work? 

Travel became part of my work when I started going to photography workshops a few years back and realizing how inspired, rejuvenated and amazed I was when I was photographing in a new place and exploring a new environment.

In the last year, my work has picked up Internationally and throughout the states which is very exciting! I feel I make my best work when I am traveling - my eyes are filled with wonder, I can play with new textures, new terrain, new landscapes and it's the best feeling. 

I recently made a "bucket list" on my website letting couples know that if they book in the places listed, I will be discounting wedding and elopement collections. I feel as though the experience of these dream destinations and getting to know my couples is far more important than a price point.



Any tips for our readers looking to reach a larger audience with their work?

My number one tip would be to only show work that you want to book. If you want to book more elopements, show those. If you want to book more outdoor weddings, show those. If you want to make new, exciting work, go out and shoot! Scout new locations, go on mini road trips and grab friends who will model for you.

Another tip would be to collaborate! I have done some of my best work in styled, collaborative shoots so it really pays off. 

Lastly, don't be afraid to reach out to someone: an artist, a photographer, a model, a brand and ask if they'd want to work with you. Even better, you see someone in a coffee shop that you would die to work with - go ask them! Most likely, they will be very flattered and will say yes. 


To see more of Kaley's work, visit Kaley From Kansas.