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Meet Quinn Kirby

Today we’d like to introduce you to Quinn Kirby. 

Hi Quinn, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
Growing up, I always knew my career would involve storytelling. I began writing my first play in fourth grade, debuted on stage in middle school, added assistant directing to my creative resume in high school, earned the title of poet laureate of the school district my senior year, and, of course, picked up a camera at a young age. 

When I first seriously began contemplating what to choose as a career path, I thought I wanted to direct films. I tested this theory when I was 17 and took a week-long film camp where we were to create a short film in just five days. I hated it. After going back to the drawing board and considering the aspects of directing that were attractive to me, I whittled what I wanted to experience in a career down to three points: bringing a team together under one common goal, transporting an audience to a new world, and offering fresh perspective. 

At this time in my life, I wanted to marry my writing and visual skills into one, and photojournalism filled these buckets for me as I went off to college. For three years, I worked at my university’s award-winning student newspaper and poured all of my energy into honing my craft as a photojournalist in and out of class. 

During this period, I had two lens-based art series shown in coffee shops in my hometown of Grand Rapids and collaborated with fellow up-and-coming creatives on editorial-inspired photography projects. As the demand for my skills in these areas grew, so did my love for the creative freedom and challenges they brought me. 

My final year of college coincided with the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and unfortunately, the creative photography courses I was so excited to experience were turned on their heads. It’s hard to learn studio lighting when the studio is closed for the safety of everyone involved. Fortunately, I had been able to purchase equipment to build a lighting kit with funds I received from a scholarship earlier in the year, and I poured all of my time into learning lighting techniques and building creative skills on the foundation my photojournalism education created for me. 

When I graduated in May 2020, I was met with a struggle familiar to all who graduated under the same circumstances: I couldn’t get a job. One day, many weeks into my job search, I looked at my, “Get a job, *****!” folder and saw 70 unique cover letters I had written and sent to companies that hadn’t even automated an email to tell me I wouldn’t be making it to interviews. 

It was at that point that I decided I had two options. One, keep wasting my energy on unfruitful attempts to work for someone else; or two, get an early start on what had slowly developed into the dream: develop my own photography business. 

Being in quarantine allowed me ample time to pour into that dream, and within a few months, I had registered for an LLC, invested in a logo collection, and launched my website and social media accounts under my official business name, Quinn Kirby Photography. 

In the year and a half since I have booked sessions all over Michigan and out of state. My clients are creative and purpose-driven. I have worked with musicians, models, small business owners, magazines, and more. I experience the aspects I desired to find in a career all those years ago every. Single. Day. I am continuously met with challenges as a business owner and creative, but I meet them head-on and each challenge leaves me stronger and more experienced than before. I’m a better photographer and person because of what each piece of this journey has given me. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Because my business doesn’t currently have the means to hire another person, I am everyone I need to be for it to survive. I am the photographer, the lighting technician, the art director, the editor, the social media manager, the graphic designer, the customer service, the marketing specialist, the web designer, the copywriter, the SEO and alt text expert; the list goes on. I am constantly learning – not only through intended methods but through trial and error, as well. 

One way I learn is through following creatives and educators within the industry on social media and connecting with that caliber of people within my community. I also take advantage of any free workshops and resources I can find, with which I design personal projects that grow my skillset in the realm I’m looking to improve. However, pulling myself in all of those directions is a recipe for burnout, and it’s been a non-linear path in determining when to put my own needs ahead of those of my business. 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’m a photographer who specializes in creative, nontraditional work – namely with small businesses and fellow creatives. My clients have gone on to successful careers in the fashion industry, the music industry, and their own entrepreneurial endeavors. My images are moody and emotional, and I connect to my audience by highlighting how much I love what I do and the communities I belong to. 

One of my larger involvements is with The Diatribe, a nonprofit local to Grand Rapids. With a mission of teaching through poetry, the organization has expansive photographic needs. Its team has hired me on to photograph multiple classroom visits, create headshots for students who signed on for the organization’s 2021 Summer Program, and to capture the Summer Program’s closing performance. I also created images for The Diatribe’s first mural activation as part of its ongoing work, “The 49507 Project.” 

Additional projects include product photography for creative brand By Best Wishes to create assets for the launch of its first adult coloring book; creating headshots and stock images for construction company Construction Simplified for a construction bid proposal; and capturing styled behind-the-scenes images for rapper Lord DLew, who has since continued his career in Los Angeles. 

What do you like best about our city? What do you like least?
Grand Rapids is proving to be a hub for the arts, and the creative community is growing with it! 

College imbued in me the value of being surrounded by a community of people with similar interests and goals. Graduating from that community in the middle of the pandemic was a strong barrier to building anew when I returned home. In the time since, I’ve slowly begun to see myself grow in community with local artists, entrepreneurs, and change-makers, but I have a long way to go. 

In the same vein, I’m looking forward to when Grand Rapids commits to the growth it requires when it comes to the treatment of its community members who are outspoken in demanding change. The city applauds artists who create works that tell stories of injustice, yet vilifies grassroots organizations that are working to eradicate that injustice. I care deeply for my city and I know it has the potential to care for its people, too.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Quinn Kirby Photography

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1 Comment

  1. Jacob Rivard

    December 5, 2021 at 4:44 am

    Wow! Quinn is a spectacular photographer. This piece offered me a lot of insight into a very talented artist with boundless amounts of potential. Great piece!

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