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Meet The People: Alex Kenealy, Photographer, Director + Writer

By Alyssa Shapiro

You know Alex Kenealy’s work—among many other projects, she’s lensed past campaigns for Youth To The People and is the camera behind our Beautiful People series. As a photographer, director, and writer, Kenealy has a knack for connecting with those in front of her camera, allowing them to express themselves, and to translate that into photos and videos the viewer can connect with, too.

Who are you? How would you describe yourself?

I am Alex Kim Kenealy. I am a photographer, director and writer. I’ve always identified myself as a creative and more recently, an artist. I bounce back and forth between classifying myself as extremely eccentric and extremely boring. There is no in between. To the annoyance of all my friends and family, I love living in Los Angeles even though I never look happy to be here.

How did you first come to photography, to video making, to writing? I know you work in multiple formats.

It has recently come to my attention that not everyone spends a majority of their time fantasizing of a better life or an alternate reality for themselves. APPARENTLY it’s fairly regressive for your mental health. So that’s great! But escapism has always been my favorite pastime—be it reading, watching a movie/show, or looking at a photo and creating a backstory for it. It’s the feeling of wanting to disappear into these worlds that gave me the desire to create them for others. It’s what I initially got into college for. Then I decided it wasn’t enough to just write, I had to film. Along the way photography became a given. 

What inspires your work?

The people I shoot inspire my work. The subject always determines the final product. Sometimes I think because I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling like the cliche outsider looking in, I find responsibility and joy in shooting someone in a way that makes them feel seen—seen by others for who they are and who they want to be. 

How has the lockdown changed your creative flow?

It’s not ever much of a flow for me. I don’t say this in a poor me kind of way. Bless anyone who has “flow” but flow to me insinuates a sense of ease—I don’t think many people who label themselves as creative would consider their work easy. 

Still, lockdown has allowed me to get off the hamster wheel of creation and take a good look at my “why.”

What does dreaming mean to you? What do you dream of? 

To me, dreaming means emotionally investing in something you want, something you don’t yet have but want to believe will come to fruition. The emotions are the pieces of yourself you have given to planting the future. 

If you could create your ideal present/future, what would it look like?

Before I found my people, I felt so alone and books and film were my means of feeling less lonely. I would see something I connected with and think, “Someone out there created this and I think we would get along. I think we would be friends.” My ideal present/future is one where I’ve created an escape for those who need it.