Kourtney Jackson Smith is an art director and photographer whose style feels like the palette of Wyeth, the architecture of Albers and the delicate strength of Brâncuși came together to form one harmonious chord—a bold melody that instantly endears you to all of her projects. Here, we chat with the LA creative about her morning rituals and the things that keep her feeling challenged and inspired.
Hello! First off, tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to lately.
Hi there. I'm a photographer with a background in art direction and I've been living in Northeast LA for five years. I mostly shoot with 35mm and medium format film, which I feel very privileged to do. I'm also currently applying to grad school for art history, criticism, and theory. I'm excited to see where that leads.
What is your favorite morning ritual?
I love reading in the morning, first thing usually.
Do you find yourself more open to creativity and inspiration in the mornings or the evenings?
It depends. Creativity is so broad. For years, I used to stay up late writing music or painting, which felt more meditative or like creating from the unconscious. But for my photo practice or art direction, I find the morning easiest to focus and churn ideas out because it's less personal and involves strategy and focus.
As a photographer, what are your greatest sources of inspiration?
Art history is both my greatest catalyst and inhibitor for my photo practice. I can feel debilitated when I take it too seriously or I can be overcome with ideas and a sort of "can do" spirit—a continuous ebb and flow. I am especially inspired by dada and the surrealists.
How do you challenge yourself to avoid repetition in your work and instead always be growing and evolving in a way that feels true to you?
I'm one of those people that needs to be challenged and always imagines the next thing for my practice, so I put a lot of energy into avoiding repetition for my own sanity. However, encouraging clients to explore new ideas isn't always easy. I try to share concepts with clients that can inspire so we can both be excited about what we're creating together.
Fill in the blanks:
The coolest place I’ve ever woken up in is:
La Cité Radieuse by le Corbusier in Marseille, France
The best cup of coffee/tea is at:
Amara's housemade chai
A thing about mornings I’ll never get sick of is:
Being present in the quiet and the physical, before you remember the digital world.