In its sophomore year, The Kitchen Sink — a day-long event for photographers and models to build their portfolios — returned to Houston’s East Downtown (EaDo) to bring some of the magic back to photography; and your very own LGBTQ magazine got an exclusive first look inside.
(HOUSTON) – Following a wildly-successful freshman year, the photography event The Kitchen Sink popped back up in EaDo last Saturday to provide photographers the opportunity to exit the realm of Instagram photos, bikini-clad models, foodie pictures, and snaps of downtown skylines to enter one of aberrant talent acts, plus-sized models, LGBTQIA performers, and much, much more. For a nominal fee, photographers, models, and performers were invited from all across the city (a list carefully curated by the event’s founder and coordinator, Jeff Soderstrom — a photographer himself) to use a massive studio space in EaDo where models and talents of all types spilled in-and-out throughout the day for the photographers to capture on film. The description doesn’t quite match up to the title of the event. Does it? We were interested to know how exactly the event took on the name “The Kitchen Sink”, and asked Soderstrom exactly how that come to be. He told us half-jokingly and half-seriously, “The ‘Everything but the Kitchen Sink Photo Shoot’ was too long.”
Walking the grounds of the giant studio space in EaDo, we ran into numerous photographers, performers, models, and their crews. When speaking to one participating photographer on his thoughts of the event, Laie Holloway said, “I’m a photographer. I’m mainly glam, but I shoot any and everything.” He continued, “[This opportunity] helps shoot diverse dancers, male and plus-sized models, [and] glam. So, it just gives you a chance to shoot a whole range of everything,” he told About Magazine at the event. “I’m loving it.”
“The LGBTQ community […] they don’t get photographed […]”
While Soderstrom hopes that the event will become larger in the future — at least large enough to accrue some sponsorship for next year — the event is private and is hosted at an undisclosed location. This is maintained so that the artists and models are protected, but also to keep the artistic and creative environment productive and free-flowing for the photographers who have spent money to be there. Soderstrom hand-selects photographers for the event himself, having added numerous newcomers to this year’s event as opposed to its inaugural year. Of the list and the event, Soderstrom, “We curate the list of as many interesting subjects that are getting short shrift and try to put them into one area where they can be shot by some amazing photographers […] [That means] the LGBTQ community, as well. Because they don’t get photographed either!”
Catching up with some of the models, we met Connor Riley (or, “the Butterfly”) of Modern Monarch in Pearland. Riley lives with a disease known as alopecia, which is known for leaving people with missing hair on certain parts of or their entire bodies. Riley could be seen against a black backdrop dressed as a superhero where he was being captured on camera. He told About Magazine, “I’m creating a superhero character that’s about creating insecurities into novelties.” When asked about his pseudonym, he explained that it ties into his art (especially the superhero shots) like so:
“When I was a kid, I loved butterflies. And my favorite after school activity was catching butterflies. I was ashamed of that because of how society portrays it […] And now me owning this brand, it’s almost like me making amends with my younger self. I’m getting peace within my heart.”
The joy and excitement of the artists and models in the room was palpable. Soderstrom — through what is clearly no small effort — has created a safe and comfortable environment for both models and photographers alike, not to mention one that is symbiotic to the careers and portfolios of both. Said Soderstrom of how the event originally came to be, “Photographers can do better. There are many other things that we can be pointing our cameras at other than naked, 24-year-old, white, thin women. Texas has a thriving performance community [and] a thriving plus-sized model contingent. We have male models who are getting short shrift because they aren’t getting the Instagram and Facebook likes. And photographers have shifted their priorities to Instagram and Facebook and, in turn, have left so many interesting and vibrant subjects to the wayside. That’s why we have these events here.”
For more information on his photography company, Emporium Photography, or to connect with Soderstrom about next year’s event, you can click here. Check out shots from the event below.
Contributions to this article were made by About Magazine Creative Director, Wendy Taylor.