The DIY effect and hustle of Kane’s career could not be any bigger. From being one of the first sneaker photographers that turned his passion into a work contract to building up his own name and business as a freelancer – Kane knows what it means to work for his dreams. With kanescans, he added a new chapter to his story, which – in contrast to his clean and crisp photography – added more life, in-sights and grain to his output. After landing his first job for solebox, Kane also turned his analogue photography into a way to keep spending time with the things he loves AND get paid. To find out more about his hustle, possible obstacles along the way, his work and what it needs to turn a hobby into a job, we talked to Kane about his latest analogue adventure.
Interview: Adrian Bianco
Hey Kane, can you please tell us more about you and your photographic hustle? When did it all start, and when did you decide to become a sneaker photographer?
Hi Adrian, to be honest I never planned to become a (sneaker) photographer. I studied art direction [AD], and in my free time I took WOMFT pictures and posted them in Facebook groups. I graduated in December 2014, and right after that I had loads of free time because I was trying to get a job in advertising. Luckily I took so many “on feets” which were reposted all over the web that I ended up doing some freelance photography work in early 2015 already, which made me reconsider if I should really end up in an advertising agency.
In the summer of ’15, two sneaker shops reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in working for them on a full-time basis. I decided to move to Cologne and work with Johannes [Höhn] (@pangea) for solebox. Johannes hooked me up back then and is a good friend of mine since. Even though we both left solebox in the beginning of 2017 to concentrate on our freelance careers, which are mostly going in two different directions, we end up doing projects together because of our photo collective @allupinitt. I am quite happy about still being in contact, even though we live in two different cities and often do different things, because I see him as my “godfather of photography” in a lot of aspects.
It was a hobby and still is – I love streetwear and sneakers, and I love reading about sneakers, looking at streetwear and taking pictures of people wearing cool outfits. Sometimes I get paid for shooting, and sometimes I go out and shoot just because I want to. I guess this is one of the reasons why it’s worked out for me so far: I still love doing it. My focus has really shifted, from just taking sneaker pictures to shooting a lot of lifestyle. I still care about the shoes in every full-body picture I take, but I also try to pitch to clients that I am more than the average Instagram sneaker photographer.
There is this famous quote, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” How much does this apply to your current work as a photographer?
Hahaha, this quote 100% applies to me. I love everything about my job, besides dealing with things like taxes and insurances. I basically never have to do work I don´t want to do. For sure there are things that are more exciting than others, but in general I am very happy with my life as a photographer. Back when I was doing advertising, there was so much stuff I disliked doing, but now working with a few of my favorite brands is just sick. I still remember me being the 19-year-old Kane and buying my first Gore-Tex The North Face and my very first TNF x Supreme jacket… If you would have told me that four years later I would have wrapped up several shootings for them, I would have most certainly told you to not be silly.
Then, again, you “DIY-did” something totally new and started kanescans. What was the motivation behind it and when did you start to really invest more time in this account?
Often I am not the first one to do something, but one of the first to adopt. Talking about kanescans, I realized that my photography was missing out on being “real”. My photos are often staged or are shots of complete strangers walking down a tunnel in some foreign city, adding more depth to the scene of my “cityscape” shot. So I wanted to have a camera that doesn´t cost a fortune and is compact enough to always be with me, even when riding my fixed-gear bike or going to a club. My digital equipment is too expensive, too heavy and also too frightening; no one who doesn´t feel at home in front of the camera really likes being shot with a Sony Alpha 7R III with some huge prime lens attached to it. When finding out about the looks of analog point-and-shoot [P&S] cameras, I bought one and took loads of pictures. After a while I started kanescans in September 2017, after realizing that the shots deserved their own account instead of just being posted in my IG Stories, but I think I am back on shooting film for more than a year now.
Since you opened up kanescans and broke through the very crisp and sometimes-staged worlds of Instagram, did you feel a change in how people connected and interacted with you over Instagram?
I would say @kanescans made it easier for my friends to ask me if I could help them out with certain projects or just take a few portraits of them, because the whole @kane vibe and the clients I work with seem to kind of scare off a lot of friends or smaller brands. Since doing @kanescans I do way more small-but-fun projects. I would also say that in general @kanescans helps to give more people an insight into what people I spend my time with.
How important do you think it is to bring more authenticity and realness to Instagram, and why exactly is analog photography such a good tool for it?
Did you have any history in taking analog pictures before, or was that something totally new for you?
Yes, my back-then girlfriend introduced me to Lomography: plastic cameras, with mostly with no electronic parts. With those lomo cameras everything was about luck, patience and fun; I was doing cross-processing, shooting 35 mm film in 120 mm cameras and doing double exposures. This was when I was still in high school.
After picking up film again, I was only shooting with point-and-shoot cameras for a while because they are so compact and safe to use, but I bought a Contax G2 recently. The G2 is a rangefinder camera with exchangeable lenses and manual settings to give me a bit more freedom in taking shots the way I want to. I had a Canon AE-1 SLR back in high school as well, but because SLRs are so bulky and heavy, I am not looking into buying one again anytime soon, especially because my new Contax G2 offers me everything I am looking for when shooting with 35 mm film. I am tempted to get back to middle format film though…
What’s the main difference between your main account and kanescans, and what are the aspects you like the most about it?
I really like that over at @kanescans you can actually learn a lot about me: you can spot my close friends, people I met, things I ate, but also loads of pictures of me, which is cool because I can finally show the stuff some brands hook me up with. I don´t really like handing my digital camera to friends with the purpose of taking shots of me, because in the past they always turned out kind of crap and I also don´t really like being in front of the lens in such a staged way. Since point-and-shoot cameras are so easy to use, I end up posting more and more shots of myself on my analog account. Apparently they are also the ones with the highest engagement rate on IG, which is low-key funny and sad at the same time.
How would you describe a perfect kanescans picture, and what are the moments and portraits you love shooting with your camera the most?
The perfect kanescans picture is a not-really-perfect photo in a sense of symmetry, alignment or focus. A must is emotion though, probably through a subject being quite close to the lens, doing something that is “street.” A good example is a picture I took the other day of my homie in a purple ball-pit during an event. This picture captures him laughing (and being drunk); but he’s also equipped with a black eye and a scar on his forehead, because he was beat up the week before for trying to stop some guys jumping a guy who was already on the ground. So there is quite a lot happening in the picture, even though you only see his head because the rest is covered in the ball pit. For me, a sure kanescans shot that I will not forget about.
I remember you talking about the goals you wanted to achieve with kanescans this year, and one of them was shooting something for a brand with it. It did not take that long before it actually happened, and again you created your own work reality. It almost seems like a pattern in your way of thinking, that you are able to decide what comes next or what you want to do next, as long you work hard at it and go for it. Would you agree with that, and, if so, what can other creatives and upcoming photographers learn from you?
One of my weak points is (or hopefully was) getting bored of something after reaching a certain level. I did so many sports in my life, I tried out so many media/creative/digital things and spent loads of time on the streets – so I am pretty good at all kinds of things I do, but only a master in a very few. You have to be specialized nowadays. If you smashed your knee skating, you should visit a doctor that is specialized in knees and, in best case, also specialized in sport injuries as well. Visiting your family doctor isn´t good enough in most cases nowadays. If you are a “photographer,” you are one of 10,000s; but as soon as you are only doing one thing, the chances are way higher that you get recognized as one of the few. My field was sneakers, and I am using my reputation in this field to get recognized as a lifestyle photographer but also as an analog photographer. I’m trying to keep my original “brand,” because if you do too many different things, people lose track of what you actually stand for. I really hope concentrating on urban photography – including cityscape, sneaker and lifestyle, either with analog or digital, via two different photography accounts – works out, because the thing I care most about is that people recognize me as a photographer instead of an influencer/blogger/etc.
Taking analog pictures became a trend or, in our language, it became a hype recently, and more and more people want to try it out for themselves. What kind of advice would you give to people that want to start with it?
You don´t have to directly buy the best gear, but if you are sure that you need this one camera/lens/etc. to achieve what you think about in your head, then go for it. I personally do a lot of research before I buy things. Often I will straightaway buy the best version of a particular lens or camera, because I know I will actually use it, because I did my research good enough to know what I am dealing with. But keep in mind this is me: someone who makes a living out of photography. You can easily start shooting with your grandma’s old camera or a EUR 5 camera that you found on the flea market; 95% of the time they will do the job just as good as an overpriced, limited edition Contax T2 imported from Japan for EUR 2000 …
Is there the right camera and film to start with?
I would recommend a P&S that gives you full control of the flash. Some P&Ss use the flash when they think it’s right and there is no way to turn the flash completely off, which can be quite frustrating. Film-wise I would go for an ISO 400 film, because they are great all-rounders. I mostly used the Fujicolor Superia 400 film in the beginning, because it’s a very vivid film with cool colors for a great price. I don´t really like that the Superia will make skin colors look very reddish every now and then when shooting people in the dark with flash, so I stopped buying them to be honest. Nowadays I mostly shoot with Kodak Portra films or the Fuji Pro 400H. Keep in mind that I can hand in invoices and get some money back, basically. If photography would just be a hobby, I would probably stick to cheaper film, because it gets very expensive when you buy EUR 8 film and pay EUR 10 to EUR 15 for development and scan per film.
So what comes next for kanescans? What are the goals for next year, and is there still room for improvement, from your point of view?
I would love to do more jobs with analog cameras. I think now is the right time to be able to do work for my favorite brands shot in film, because everyone wants to achieve the kind of vibe Travis Scott, ASAP Rocky and other celebrities have on their IG. They get shot by photographers like @gunnerstahl.us and @rayscorruptedmind, whose images and backgrounds I really enjoy. Lately the streetwear world is more appreciating vibe than image quality and location – at least, that’s my impression. At the moment I am also noticing that more and more people actually dive deeper into the whole analog process; they develop their own films and buy scanners to scan their negatives. I also thought about getting into that, but quickly realized that I am traveling way too much and that I have way too many things to do to actually spend time on this. Looking at Places+Faces and the analog shooters I mentioned, I realized that at the moment it´s also not necessary for me to spend this time. They are not doing it either, because they need their images just as quick as I do. I also like the purity of shooting a film, dropping it off at the lab and paying extra for express, and having finished images sent to me via WeTransfer a few hours, or max a day, later. If I would have to do it myself, it would probably sometimes take me weeks to work on them, just because I’d got other things to do than spending hours scanning at home.
With analog photography being that big right now, do you think this trend will last any longer or will be forgotten again pretty soon and replaced by another trend?
I can see that the Nimslo 3D is dying pretty soon, because way too many people use them; I recently got approached by a fast-fashion giant to rent out my Nimslo 3D for a shooting. But analog in general won’t die that quick, because it never died in the first place. It´s hyped right now, yes; but it will not die out anytime soon, because shooting good pictures with P&S is so much easier than getting good shots with digital gear, and people seem to finally realize that film is so much more forgiving than you actually think, especially when shooting with an ISO 400 roll and a camera with flash – you are equipped for every situation. If people are willing to spend money on film and development, it will stay in trend in my opinion – but only time will tell.
Thank you a lot for your time!
Anytime, Adrian; thanks for digging that deep.
This is a shortened version of our interview with Kane. The full story appears in our July 2018 issue of Sneakers Magazine – available now!