Paris Captures the Eye and Heart of an American Photographer

Paris Captures the Eye and Heart of an American Photographer

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American photographer in Paris
© Krysatal Kenney

Growing up in small town Maryland in a suburb outside of Baltimore, I never dreamed of moving to Paris. France seemed so far, so foreign, so impossible to a young suburban girl whose furthest destination was a summer spent in Maine with the parentals.

Flash forward into senior year of university, graduating during the fall of the American economy (2008) and with a boatful of student debt. With no real job prospects in sight, it seemed like the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and take a vacation to Europe.

Author in her Paris apartment. © Kristal Kenney

Arriving into what felt like to me an ‘80s designed spaceship, which some like to call Charles de Gaulle Airport, I no longer was a lost girl in the job world, but an overly smiley girl in a brightly-patterned flower sundress and sandals. I had no French skills, but a lot of ambition to fall in love with a Frenchman and begin my new glamorous European life.

Three weeks would soon fly by touring around Europe, with plenty of stops for those must-have-proof photo shots that I was here: in front of the Eiffel Tower, biking along the canals of Amsterdam, and of course, indulging in waffles in Belgium.

Paris © Krystal Kenney

Six countries later and no richer, I was back in America with what I like to call reverse culture shock. I quickly realized that out of all the countries I visited, France had my heart and I had to find a way to get back and make my life there.

The following year, I took on five jobs while still running my own photography company; I washed that student debt away, sold my car for some startup cash and returned to that French spaceshuttle of an airport with a different goal this time.

I wanted to be a full time Parisian photographer and make my impression on this beautiful city with the click of a button.

Montmartre © Kristal Kenney

As a child, my mother always had a camera in our faces and this drove me crazy! But as fate would have it, years later, I would be the women with a camera everywhere! I worked as a photographer in Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Annapolis, photographing weddings and portraits before packing up my bags and moving to the city of light.

My business was really blossoming in Maryland. I was freelancing for several companies and running my own successful portrait and wedding photo business, but in my heart I longed for something more. I had always wanted to be an international photographer and I thought what better way to start than to move abroad? Everyone thought I was crazy to move to a country all by myself where I didn’t speak the language and knew no one! I guess what truly inspired me in the end was the need for adventure.

Paris is the most romantic city in the world. © Kristal Kenney

Inspiration is everywhere in this city. It truly is a photographer’s dream land. Just walking the streets and discovering hidden passageways, the way the sun reflects on the Seine, the ornate architecture whose walls hold centuries of secrets and life. It’s almost impossible not to be inspired daily in this magnificent utopia.

© Kristal Kenney

Now, I no longer need photo proof that I visited the Eiffel Tower. I call it the office these days since I’m spending most mornings’ there capturing portraits of visiting couples and families.

Residing in Paris for four years now, I am so lucky that my work has taken me to such interesting locations and even more to interesting people. Some of my favorite people I have captured in Paris over the years Paris include: Jimmy Buffet, John Irving, the American Ambassador to Paris, and Michael Chabon. My work has been published in Architectural Digest, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and Marie Claire.

Singer/Writer Jimmy Buffet at the American Library in Paris. © Kristal Kenney

What I quickly realized about moving to Paris to pursue my dreams was there is this wonderful world of American expats waiting here to help you. It doesn’t matter if we have nothing in common at all besides the fact that we moved to France. There is a common bond between expats because we all experienced that intense first six months of depression and feeling like a child while discovering how to fit into this Parisian world. This vast network has been the key to my continuing success here and I am so very thankful for it.

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