“Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.”
-Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)
A good friend of Paradigm Magazine, Mikael Kennedy, is closing the final chapter to his Passport to Trespass series. We interviewed Mikael about his modern day odyssey back in June and had the opportunity to do a follow up interview. When I first saw the Passport series, I was drawn to the adventurous spirit of the man and photographic honesty of the work. The man and the work are true expressions of what is genuine. And although everything must end … as Mikael put it, “I’m still not dead” and I can speak for everyone here at Paradigm Magazine when I say this, we are all excited for Mikael’s future projects.
Mikael, in our conversation earlier today, we were talking about the past, present, and future. James Joyce said, “I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.” What relevance does this statement have to what was Passport to Trespass, what currently is Passport to Trespass, and what Passport to Trespass will become ….
I have a weird relationship with the past, I often find myself saying that the past is pointless, yet this massive body of work is wrapped in a sense of nostalgia, I am building a world out of my past. Every moment in my past has brought me to where I am today, to this moment, what ever it may be, so that is okay. Passport to Trespass is a chapter of my life, a time when I frantically wandered, it was my 20′s actually. I am still traveling and shooting Polaroids, still working, seemingly, on the same project but things have changed, I have changed, so it seemed right to actually end one chapter so that I can begin the other. After this I’m not really interested in talking about the past anymore, the shows I am working on are very different, they are no longer chronological documentations of a journey. They are becoming more collected visions. Things have to change, if they don’t they will go sour. Look at what happened to Kerouac, he couldn’t let go of the past in the end, he didn’t know how to keep going when the roads changed.
In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, author James Campbell summarized the monomyth:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Any thoughts on this …
The quote I most often am drawn to from that book is when he talks about needing the journey to be a circle, that it is the going and the return that make it a journey. To simply go out and disappear isn’t enough, you must come back.
After your epic 12 year journey, you now have ‘the power to bestow boons’ on your fellow man, has this been your photography or have you given the world something much greater …. ?
I have no idea how to answer that one, I don’t think I’m supposed to. I am constantly amazed and humbled that folks have followed this story for as long as they have. I like to think that someone may look at all of this and decide to leave where they are, to go out on the road.
We spoke about the originality of each singular Polaroid image. Besides the fact that there is only one image that can never be re-created, what makes each Polaroid so special?
When I first started this project I probably would have just said that they looked nice, that was why. The Polaroid itself, the white border, the bottom heavy frame are such an iconic image at this point that we have folks faking it all over the place, in advertising, in digital images. Putting the white border around the image almost makes it more personal, it feels intimate. It’s the intimacy of the whole thing that I think folks respond to. What I like about using Polaroids to represent a story of a life is that there is no faking it. There are no zoom lenses, no option for digital manipulation. What you see is what was there, it is a moment in time that will never exist again, frozen in a film that will never exist again. It is an entirely unique thing. Many folks over the years have lamented the loss of Polaroid. I don’t feel the same way, everything dies, that’s what makes it special.
In your travels you visited Spain, I’m not sure if you are familiar with the work of Miguel de Unamuno but he said that, “A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age; he dies of being a man.” Can you talk more of the idea of death not only in life but in your work as well, the theme that no matter what all things die …
I spent the early part of my life convinced I was going to die, when that didn’t happen and I suddenly realized I had a lifetime ahead of me something changed in the way I saw the world. I remember very vividly that day, walking to school, everything seemed to glow in the light. Death is always on my mind, I recently learned of the Trappists Monks of Algeria, who have a vow of silence other than when they pass each other during the day, they are only allowed to say “Remember death”. To be aware of the end makes every moment up to it so much more important. All things come to an end, it is what gives them their value.
Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, the list goes on … Social media is completely dominating and impacting (positively / negatively) peoples’ lives … What is your relationship with these media outlets and is it a love / hate relationship or both & why?
All of those things have really changed the way this works, for many artists. Bands no longer really need labels, they have the internet, photographers can survive without agents because in many ways they can directly access clients through those platforms. It is definitely a love/hate. I think it’s important to recognize the need to step away from those things as much as possible, go outside.
If you had to single out one moment or experience over the last 12 years that you would say truly shaped or changed your world-view what would that moment be?
Shit man, that is too hard. I have a horrible memory, I often flip through the Passport to Trespass books when I am bored and find that I have forgotten so much of where I have been. It’s the people I am surrounded by that are my favorite parts, they are my family. That is the most important thing in all of this. I can say this though, there was a moment, sometime in 2002 or 2003 when I was sitting by the sea, up on an island off the coast of New Hampshire when I realized I could make my life into anything I wanted, that I could choose my reality. That was when I put myself fully into this, that I decided to just go and see what happened, nothing else mattered.
When you read the last sentence of any book & put it down, one begins reflecting on what he/she just read. Those thoughts can bring on many feelings, emotions, and actions … When you reflect on the last 9 books that you’ve now just ‘read the last sentence’ and closed, what lies ahead for Mikael Kennedy, personally, professionally, & psychologically?
I’m still not dead. I’ve got a lot of projects coming up in the next few months that I’m looking forward to. My gallery Peter Hay Halpert Fine Art, NY will also be retiring my early work at the end of the year so we can move on to new shows and projects. This chapter is over. I have 10 Polaroids in a show in Atlanta later this month at the Jennifer Schwartz gallery who will also be releasing a limited edition set of prints from my series “The Odysseus” and we have been talking to larger book publishers about releasing the entire Passport to Trespass series someday, we are still looking for someone to take that project on. Mostly I’d like to get back to New Mexico, I miss that landscape, I’d like to spend a few weeks wandering around out there, clear my head.
“To be aware of the end makes every moment up to it so much more important. All things come to an end, it is what gives them their value.”