Interview by Ruby Love
Kaia Spiliotes Fornes is an Evergreen junior studying photography, dance, and art therapy. Born and raised in Oslo, Kaia – who is Norwegian and Greek – spent her childhood “exploring the fjords of Norway and island hopping around Greece.” This issue’s covers feature her series “The Arctic,” shot in Tromsø, Norway. Kaia started shooting at an early age, inspired by her early travel experiences in Norway and Greece to document the world around her. While she shoots a wide variety of subjects, Kaia is most drawn to the beauty of nature: “The great outdoors is full of awe and mystery. I have been exploring the wonders of nature since childhood. Nature is in the essence of every being. Being at peace and connected with the earth around you is one of the most important ways to live. Nature is a sacred place that I love to photograph.”
We asked Kaia about her series “The Arctic” which was shot during the winter of 2016. Shot in the city of Tromsø, the series captures “blue hour,” which takes place twice each day – once before the sun comes up, and again in the hour before it sets. “The main idea of the series was to capture the blue hour at its peaks. Traveling to Tromsø this past winter was my first time traveling above the Arctic Circle. The views were phenomenal and the town was more photogenic then I could have imagined.” While beautiful, shooting in temperatures averaging around zero degrees Fahrenheit comes with serious challenges. Kaia says, “Even with four warm wool layers, a snow jacket, and snow pants, I was freezing.” But, she says, “as a photographer, you prevail in order to get the perfect photo.”
Comparing the natural beauty of Norway and that of the Pacific Northwest, Kaia remarks, “In some ways Norway is very similar… The air is clean, the sights are beautiful, and the people are kind.” However, she says, her visit this year was a stark reminder of the effects of climate change, as there was much less snow on the ground, even in a city as far north as Tromsø. “I had better experiences with snow in the Pacific Northwest this year, which is sad. Climate change is a real thing and we need to take it seriously.”
Back in Washington now, Kaia is working on a new series for her Documentary Photography program called “Graffiti the World.” The series explores street art and its “potential influence on social views,” combining photography with interviews of graffiti artists. “I produce art to enrich and broaden people’s view of the world, and I believe street art is a big part of what people see…I have a lot of research and work to do before this project is complete, but once finished I hope it will spread awareness on the topic…”
In addition to her independent photography work, Kaia also serves as Photoland’s Curatorial and Exhibition Intern. She says the experiences of helping manage Photoland’s two galleries, promoting exhibits, photographing the Rare Books collection, and much more have been “more than rewarding.” She says, “It is hard work but definitely worth it. Steve Davis is a great mentor; I have learned so much from him and this internship that will benefit my life and career in significant ways.”
You can find more of Kaia’s work on her website, kaiaspiliotesfornes.wix.com, and her Instagram: @k.ink_photography.