Forever chasing waves with her surfer husband, you can see how Erin Kunkel‘s skill for capturing the spirit of life on film has developed from her action-packed life. Between work and traveling, she’s also taken on two (soon to be three!) home renovations that she rents out to fellow photogs. Learn more about Erin and check out a few of her beautiful interior shots in the interview below.
Your website shows off a spectrum of photography genres many of them loaded with action. Share with us a bit about the journey that led you to interior photography.
I started out as a travel photographer and had the opportunity to shoot beautiful hotels and spaces all over the world. Now, as a commercial director and photographer, I photograph interiors for hospitality clients, but most often, interesting homes are the backdrop for lifestyle shoots- providing context and a key part of telling a visually dynamic story that gives a window into how people live.
What is vital to having an excellent photographer/designer relationship?
It’s similar to the way I work with chefs- designers have an overall vision that they are trying to express, so it’s about listening to their story and focusing on the details, craftsmanship, and essence of what makes their space unique. It’s a very collaborative process- light and color are essential to both photography and design, and we can build off each other’s ideas, where I am seeing their space with a fresh perspective, and they are guiding me toward the design elements they are most proud of.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back and tell yourself in your first few months of business?
Hone in on what you love- spend the time to explore what you keep going back to and what resonates- don’t worry about what other people are doing. Experiment until you find the common threads that start to define your way of seeing.
You offer up your Santa Cruz cabin and San Fransisco home for shoots, and it sounds like you’ve been designing them yourself. Has photographing interiors influenced the way your design, or vice versa?
I’ve learned so much from working with amazing architects, stylists, and designers. Photographing incredible spaces around the world has enabled me to take little elements that I love or new ways of doing things back to my own home and design process. My husband and I have always taken a very DIY approach to renovating our homes, and over the years the process has become more intuitive. We’ve taken the time to see how we want to live in various rooms, how the light moves through the house, and how to honor the history of the space before rushing into a design. Both our Santa Cruz mountain cabin and San Francisco have beautiful light and a unique feel that tells a story- it’s a great place for me to shoot, and we rent it to other photographers and filmmakers who want a place that has character.
You’ve shared that you enjoy traveling with your husband. Where do you look forward to jetting off to next?
We’ve been road tripping to British Columbia the last few years, and keep going back as there are endless places to explore. Chile is also at the top of our list (our destinations usually involve remote surf spots). We used to live in Hawaii and go back as often as we can to see friends and immerse ourselves in warm water and outdoor living.
Looking forward, what’s on your horizon?
I am primarily a photographer and director, but I love design. Up next is a new project restoring a 1915 surf shack a few blocks from the beach in Santa Cruz. The previous owner shared some old photographs from her childhood and we’re excited to incorporate some of its history as we re-envision the space.
Like what you see? Take a peek at the talent behind the story… Photography: Erin Kunkel · Interior Design for Feature Image: Lauren Nelson Design
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