Kayoua Xiong’s fashion and fine art photography gallery opening

Recently we had a chance to attend a fashion and fine art photography gallery opening. Chicago’s own Kayoua Xiong has spend the last several months working on revealing and daring fashion photography collection.

The night of September 23, 2011 was a first for many things. NowYouKnow hosted their first official event, where Kayoua Xiong showcased her fashion and fine-art photography in her first gallery opening. The night also marked the 1 year anniversary since NowYouKnow went live.

NowYouKnow was launched to keep the Chicagoans posted on the events in and around the city. In one year it has grown to become the most comprehensive resource of various events in Chicago.

Kayoua Xiong is a local fashion photographer who graduated from the Art Institute in 2009 and was recently featured in “Me In Focus Magazine”. Kayoua, a primary member of NowYouKnow, presented her work of fashion and fine-art nude photography in a gallery opening for the first time ever.

“I started this project because I see the human body as an art form of its own, art we should not be ashamed to show. This gallery is an expression of that belief, inspired by publications like Purple Magazine and my own fashion photography. I chose to photograph fashion models who were not afraid to create art with their body, and imbue it with a daring yet elegant femininity. In some images, we sought a light and playful tone, in others created images of quiet beauty framing candid, unashamed allure.” was the statement by Kayoua released before the opening.

The photographs on display were indeed portraying the daring elegant femininity and the female body as an art form. The photographs were stunning and the models were truly creating art with their bodies.

The guests had a chance to meet one of the models from the photographs, Ameena Payne. Ameena is a freelance model in Chicago, friendly and charming in person and looking absolutely striking in the photographs.

“Ka’s professionalism and passion shows in her imagery. She has a unique ability to capture female sensuality without sexualizing her models nor making her images overtly sexual. I was very comfortable working with Ka, and we were able to share our creative ideas. I’m honored to have been part of the gallery.” shared Ameena.

The event featured live performances by Chicago artists Steve Sebby and Sewing Pattern Music. Held at the Fashion Market a studio space that caters to artists and fashion, and attended by many fashion industry people, artists and fashion lovers, the gallery opening night was a great way to spend the Friday evening.

We’ve caught up with Kayoua after the event for an interview about her exhibition, inspiration and photography.

What inspired you to do this project? And how long did it take you to get from the idea to the final work?

Kayoua: In the past I did a lot of nude paintings and drawings and thought maybe I should start photographing them also. I have always been inspired by Purple Magazine and wanted to do something similar, which this gallery allowed me to express. I also really wanted to not just “show some photos”, but also make a statement that I believed in, and make “art that matters”. The gallery planning and photo shoots began all the way back in January, actually.

Your work is very daring and some pictures are very revealing. Have you ever worried about how people would react?

Kayoua: I see myself more as an artist than a photographer. Photography is another medium that I have come to learn and use but in the end I still express the same emotions as in my paintings, sculpting, etc…To me to be an artist is to dare, to push for the boundaries. I used to paint long ago and my paintings mean so much to me. As time passed I began to find that photography was not enough for me, I wanted to express emotions in my photos. I wanted to move people, to make them feel the emotions that I felt through my art work.

I am not worried about how people would react because this is art. I created this collection to encourage women to embrace sexuality and not fear it and stand strong together. It is not playboy or about promiscuity, but simply accepting, and celebrating, ourselves for who we are sexually. Every model I photographed was a volunteer who was genuinely excited to be part of the gallery.

If I’m too afraid to show and reveal and my artwork, then I wouldn’t bother to be an artist. I am very happy for this collection, although there is so much more I wish I could have added. It’s a start though, and I am excited to see what more I can put together in the future.

What was your approach to these photoshoots? Did you have everything planned out in advance? Or did you work with it as it was happening with the location and the models?

Kayoua: I thought about this since January, but couldn’t quite get a clear vision until closer to summer. Like I said every model I photographed was excited and very interested in the project, so that helped. I did plan everything specifically for the gallery, although I didn’t always know what angle of photography I wanted to take- fine art, fashion, commercial, or journalistic nudes, or average everyday women vs models? In the end I turned to my fashion models, because fashion in art is where my vision has always been.

How did you discover your passion for photography?

Kayoua: By pure luck actually, I’m so glad I eventually found what I wanted to do, coming from a family who doesn’t support art makes it very difficult for me. But eventually I got the guts to fight for my own dream with help from someone who’s very close to me. Otherwise, I probably would have never stepped foot into the artist’s world.

Early on, I did not get a chance to do much photography, just a little black and white film photography in highschool. A teacher actually entered me in a few city contests and I won, and they displayed my art work at the University of Minnesota, and in one of the smaller museums, I forget which ones. Back then I didn’t think much of it and did not even consider photography as a career, although the experience was fun.

I moved to Chicago a few years ago, to finish college, and started to do wedding photography, which I had no experience in. Soon after, I came upon ModelMayhem and started shooting friends and aspiring models and that’s how it all got started. At first it was a hobby, then I got more serious, and switched my major from advertising to photography in my senior year.

Media crew:
Reporter and photographer – Raven Mai

Fashion photographs courtesy of and taken by Kayoua Xiong, KX Photography.

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