On flowers and cultivating narratives with Kristen Lindesay

Holly and Kristen first connected over a shared admiration for each other's work.
Through her practice Kristen has crafted an intuitive way of seeking out the poetry in visual compositions, her sensibilities stretching across styling, creative direction and photography.

Her eye is a clear droplet contributing to the current ocean of inspiration coming out of the creative and fashion landscape in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

After years of exchange online - through both words and images, the two got to meet in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland. Kristen took some pictures for HB Archive and sat down to answer some questions.

Hi Kristen! How are you? What are you up to right now? What’s your view?

Hello. I’m sitting at the dining table, with my son's pens and pencils everywhere, while everyone else is asleep.

I don’t know if I read somewhere that your previous business auor was created for the gap you saw with eyewear to be beautifully documented in a less commercial way?

We started it because we loved sunglasses but when it came to the brand identity part, we felt that eyewear photography was so shiny and slick and didn’t relate to it at all so we chose a more casual and soft approach.

You now focus your time across photography and styling for various small brands and publications. One of my favourite questions that I struggle to answer myself is, what do you describe your work to be? What’s your ‘job title’?

At the moment the work I do is mostly styling for fashion which I do in an editorial sense at Island Magazine and then campaigns or small photo stories for brands. I also work with my husband Alex, photographing and interviewing artists for gallery/store Public Record in Auckland, I used to work in store there too but stopped when I had my second child Ondine last year. This is the first time I’ve been freelance which suits me because of my young family, and I also realised I quite like project based work.

When we finally got to meet this month after so many years as pen pals, we spoke about your move from Sydney to Auckland. Even just two weeks in NZ I felt a massive relief with the slower pace, and a general sense of calm and kindness from everyone. What are your favourite parts of getting to live where you live now?

For the first time in my adult life I’ve got friends living in walking distance which is such a treat and feels like how life is meant to be. Nipping over to borrow something, looking after each other’s kids, dropping by for cups of tea.  We’ve started doing family camping trips in the summer time and these feel like an extension of this way of living. Simple, easy, joyful.

We’ve been really lucky to have met so many wonderful people here generally.

Since being in NZ, Alex and I have intentionally fallen into step with the pace here and tried to make our life feel as time-spacious as possible and it has been a great place to do this.

Obviously you know how to pair clothes together very well. Do you have a general formula each day or is it more like a wild card? What was today’s process?

I very much dress to suit my mood. Sometimes I try to plan ahead with outfits but often when I return to the outfit on a different day I don’t feel it. Normally I have one thing I want to wear, and then build it out from there. 

When I was in my 20s, I used to pride myself on the fact that I never wore the same outfit twice. I’ve always had a fairly generous wardrobe (much to Alex’s dismay) but it’s full of things I’ve had for years that I would wear over and over, just never in the same arrangement. I used to spend hours in my bedroom as a teenager trying on outfits and altering things I’d found at op shops so it’s made me quite happy lately to notice that that act of play is being realised in a work sense now and is also shared with others.

We also spoke of how a lot of the people you work and collaborate with are your friends. I like the genuine nature of this, plus it's nice knowing the people you work with are wearing things they feel comfortable in because they trust you and you know them. Do you feel this too? How did you and Jun meet? 

I love working with people I know. And I love meeting people through work. I kind of just love people. But it’s fun working with friends in particular because the mood is more relaxed, everyone trusts each other and it’s just another excuse to hang out. When everyone is on the same wavelength you arrive more quickly at interesting places too because you don’t have to work as hard to understand each other.

Jun and I met in my first year in Auckland because we’d commissioned her to weave some headscarves for the auor store. She lived near to me at the time, so I offered to collect the work, and when I arrived, she invited me in for tea and we ended up having a long, deep conversation which would be the start of many. I find her very inspiring.

The other day you were telling me how you’d heard someone talking about the evolutionary psychology of why women in particular love flowers; because back in the days of hunting and foraging, a flower on a tree would signify the coming of fruit, so they would be important things to look out for. I love this. Especially thinking back to the pop up and you describing to me the winter gardens, and  being a possible scene for the shoot, then I was taken there myself and I felt all the things you’d explained. It all made sense!
And then the final cherry on top is this truly special shoot. I feel like we see the world in a similar way. A picture tells a thousand words, but is it ever hard to not over-explain and give away all the meaning behind everything you do? I am such an over-sharer by nature, and I think so much about everything I do that it’s often hard to hold back!

I’ve actually been thinking a lot about narratives lately and how art of any kind contributes to broader cultural narratives and what are the narratives that I would like to contribute to. And also whether certain decisions or directions need to be explained to be understood or can it be soaked in by visuals alone. I’m not really sure. I do feel like we are in a time where we need to be clear on our values and really make an effort to live them. I think we need to make more space for things that are genuinely meaningful and if that means being earnest and oversharing to get the message across I don’t think it’s a problem.

As I look for my place in the world and consider how much I love clothes and textiles, I find myself feeling the need to justify it. Is it helpful? Do we need any of it? I think that’s why I keep coming back to the theories you mentioned above in evolutionary psychology about our attraction to flowers being linked to a sign of health and abundance in nature, as opposed to women just liking pretty things. I don’t feel that the way I interact with clothes to be frivolous or meaningless or honestly even materialistic and I hope that comes through in both the way I dress and the kind of fashion related work I do.

I think that’s all I’ve got - is there anything else you’d like to share? A favourite thing that you’ve been doing lately, or anything you've recently enjoyed?

I listened to Zadie Smith interviewed on the Talk Easy podcast recently which I very much enjoyed and then a friend lent me a couple of her books I hadn’t read before. I’ve just started Swing Time and I’m not that far in but I’ve been mulling on these two bits -

“When the music changes, so does the dance.”

Hausa Proverb

And then in chapter 1 when the main character is describing the way her mother dresses “She dresses for a future not yet with us but which she expected to arrive”.

Both feel kind of connected to the way I’m thinking about the world at the moment. Trusting that things will change as the culture does, while also trying to bring that change about in my own way.

I’ve also been slowly reading a great book called “Dance your way home: A journey through the dance floor” by Emma Warren which has been really energising and you would probably enjoy!






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