Today we’d like to introduce you to Kendall Halliburton.
Hi Kendall, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Ever since I was a child, I have always found the world and the people in it to be fascinating and beautiful–even the mundane, everyday things. My mother has told me stories of how, as young as age three or four, I used to go up to strangers and complement their outfits or makeup (or how I would just stare and smile at them from afar). I often told strangers that I thought they were beautiful. I used to stare at flowers, colorful homes, or strange insects. This sort of fixation on beauty–the way beauty reveals itself in nondescript corners, the way it is personified and embodied, the way it is a state of being that communicates itself through in-between moments or the senses–informs my creative work today.
Throughout my life, I gravitated toward the arts. I took art classes throughout school and would dive into various creative projects such as crafting or scrapbooking. However, it was not until my senior year that I started my journey in film and photography sort of by accident. I joined a club in a last-minute attempt to spruce up my resume and was thrown into an event where I had to create a short film. I got my hands on a camera and never looked back. Photography followed naturally thereafter and over time, I specialized in portrait photography. My hope is that I never lose that inner child when I look at people, at landscapes, or patches of light–and photography has been an amazing way to channel this perspective.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It hasn’t been a smooth road. I have made mistakes along the way, but as I grow I have been learning to befriend my mistakes. The most difficult time I have been through thus far is graduating college during the height of the global pandemic. Dealing with post-grad existential blues (which I do not think are talked about enough), a brutal breakup, and dire job prospects really challenged everything I thought I knew about myself. For years, I had become so used to the lifestyle of being a full-time student who participated in extracurriculars, worked side jobs, created art, and had a full social life. I had a formula that worked for me as long as I worked hard and showed up. All of a sudden, I found myself isolated, unable to do the things I had relied on doing for years and years. All of a sudden, I was not able to get what I wanted no matter how hard I worked. With hopes to begin a career as a creative professional, I applied to hundreds and hundreds of jobs, wrote cover letter after cover letter, and went through rounds of interviews to no avail. I was able to channel some creative energy in documenting the world around me while I was living in the Bay Area and later on in my hometown of Montana, but I honestly had never felt so uninspired and sad. When the opportunity to move to LA last year arose and I was offered a job (not my dream job but it felt like a silver lining), I decided to take the leap. Living in LA for the last year has been its own kind of beautiful and challenging journey, and I continue to go after my goals.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a professional photographer who specializes in portrait, lifestyle, fashion, and landscape/street photography. I am most known for my portrait and fashion photography; however, the work I’m personally most proud of and feel closest to is my photojournalistic photography. I gravitate toward telling a story through this style of photography and, in general, want to explore this medium more in my work. On the other hand, I’m still obsessed with film and have been writing screenplays and collaborating with former classmates on projects for next year. My goal is to level-up in film production, primarily in writing and producing. I’m grateful to have received an incredible education as a student at both Saddleback College and UC Berkeley, the latter being where I eventually graduated with a major in Media Studies and a minor in Creative Writing. My academic background in film theory, media studies, and production helped me channel my love for photography and filmmaking, find my identity as an artist, and realize how much of that identity lies in the heart of storytelling.
What sets me apart from others is the experiences I have had as a woman who was born with a hearing disability. I was born with a progressive hearing loss and over my life, my hearing has declined and will likely continue to decline. Even though I wear a hearing aid and a cochlear implant, when people first meet me, they are often not aware that I have a hearing disability unless I tell them. While I am starting to learn the language, I do not communicate using ASL (American Sign Language) and rely on spoken language, body language, and lip-reading to communicate in the hearing world. I find myself in this confusing in-between space of being deaf but not quite fully Deaf. In addition, I certainly benefit from the privilege of passing as able-bodied. Yet, the way the world perceives me now is vastly different than the way I was perceived when I was a young girl growing up in a small town of Montana, where I was bullied and treated differently because of my disability. For a long time, I hated myself and desperately wished I could be different. Over the last few years, I have been choosing to feel grateful for who I am. Because I truly believe I would not be nearly as strong, hardworking, or compassionate if I was someone else. I wouldn’t be as observant and aware. I would not see the world the way I see it.
How do you define success?
I have a complicated and stubborn relationship with success. For most of my life, my idea of success was that it was all about the outcome: attaining awards, money, or recognition. And, for most of my life, I had this belief that if I put in the hard work, I would see positive outcomes and reach my goals. However, the past year has taught me that life is not quite that black-and-white. I was forced to come face-to-face with a total and complete lack of success in the way I had thought success would look. After applying to hundreds and hundreds of jobs, seeing my work rejected by literary journals and magazines, and working countless side jobs for free or for little money, I felt like a complete and total failure. I grew depressed and unmotivated. I started to doubt everything: my identity, my purpose, and my abilities. I am still struggling to reconcile with it. However, I am starting to shift my perspective to view success less as an outcome-oriented endeavor and more as a process. Now, I believe success is about day-to-day practices and the things I do daily to improve myself and my craft. Success is more about committing to my passions without attaching an outcome. I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I am slowly and surely figuring out how to trust in the process.