Artist Profile: Kara Murphy

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by Devin DuMond | photography by Kevin Huver and Kara Murphy

Much of how we experience the world is through sight. It’s how we navigate where we are going and know who and what is around us. It can dictate many of our interactions, such as deciding whether or not we want to eat something or if we enjoy being in a new environment. Each of us has our own distinct cone of vision, the ability to process certain colors, details, and even our tolerance of brightness and darkness. Our experiences are limited by our physicality, which is one of the reasons why the work of Kara Murphy is so fascinating. There are no limits to what she can see. Her mastery of discovering unique spaces, textures and patterns from an aerial view is truly a gift. It allows us, the viewer, to experience the world in a whole new way.

Murphy is a drone photographer. She has a unique ability to look at a space, visualize its potential, and then capture images of it using a camera-mounted drone. The resulting images are breathtaking; from unusual color shifts and textures found in the natural landscape to intricate patterns created by human-made objects.

“This is what I was meant to be doing” Murphy said. “You are no longer searching for meaning — no longer thinking, what am I doing with my life— I don’t think that way.”

While many artists are right-brain dominant, Murphy is a balanced blend of the two sides.

“[I always] thought of myself as a techy person but it felt like there was a piece of me missing,” she said. “Now I feel more whole.”

Kara Murphy

This is reflected in the type of art she does. There is a real scientific process to working with a drone, mapping out locations ahead of time, and understanding all of the nuances of the technology. Yet, looking at the photos she produces, there is undeniable artistry.

Murphy got her start with photography as a fun hobby at music festivals. She attended Coachella, in her home state of California, with had a point-and-shoot camera on hand. She loved taking photos of artists performing on stage and being able to capture a specific moment in time.

However, after years of photographing these festivals, she felt it was time for a shift.

“Photography at music festivals started getting oversaturated,” Murphy reflected, “I realized I’m getting the same thing as at least 50 other photographers who know how to use their cameras.”

It was at that time she saw a top-down image a friend took at Martha’s Vineyard.

“He used a first gen. drone with a GoPro mounted. It was very compelling,” she said, “I was immediately drawn to that.”

From there she began to teach herself drone photography by borrowing equipment from friends.

“Technology was very limited then,” she explained. “No camera attached, no GPS, battery life of about 6 minutes. Now drones have first-person view with build-in cameras and color profiles [which] makes post-processing more accurate.”

Murphy became so emerged in the technology that not only does she work professionally as a drone photographer, but also owns a small business called Aerial Print Shop, and writes for several publications on the subject, including Digital Photography Review and DroneLife.

“For me it’s been a journey,” she said. “I always look at my photos and think, how can I do better? That’s the key to staying relevant. There’s always room for improvement. Always ways to stand out and be different.”

When looking at her portfolio, it’s almost like being transported to another world. You see landscapes and architecture that may look or feel familiar, but from a whole new perspective. Her eye for composition is unparalleled: gorgeous symmetrical architectural forms, color and texture separating land from water, and locations that can be appreciated on a whole other level when seen from above.

When she moved out of California to Michigan two years ago, she thought she would miss the beaches and landscapes. Instead, the move exceeded all of her expectations.

“I came from a place that became driven by money and what’s the next tech innovation to more of a well-rounded area with an appreciation for the arts” Murphy mused. “There’s so many treasures, the diversity of the landscape, the seasons — it’s kind of the perfect palette.”

Movement is a big part of her process. From the drone itself, scanning the landscape, to her research for each shoot, Murphy is always on the move.

“You never want to get too comfortable. Find a new location, or a new way of capturing something. It’s a continual journey … and when you think that way, its always more exciting”

To learn more about Kara Murphy, visit her online at karaemurphy.co and aerialprintshop.com.

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