A Conversation with Kalen Hollomon



By Whitney Mallett

Kalen Hollomon (@kalen_hollomon) is taking collage to New York City’s streets and its underground, superimposing clippings from fashion and vintage porno magazines onto unsuspecting subway riders and mundane city scenes. By taking advantage of forced perspective, he can give a cop Céline heels or transport a supermodel’s strut from the catwalk to the F train. Hollomon’s work fits into an emerging genre of photos taken on iPhones and distributed on Instagram. With 21K followers, Daniel Arnold (@arnold_daniel), whose work is the most well-known of this genre, poignantly captures intimate moments like the pursed lips of a woman on the escalator at rush hour or a mother sweeping her daughter’s bangs off her face. It’s hard to ignore the new lack of privacy these photographers’ works exemplify. Unlike the photographers behind street photo blogs like Humans of New York or the Sartorialist, these men are working with iPhones instead of DSLRs and it’s obvious they rarely ask their subjects for permission. It’s clear that many of the people don’t even notice they are getting their picture taken – who can really tell the difference between someone snapping a pic or playing candy crush during their commute? It’s that candidness that lends these images their power, and by mixing in collage, Hollomon adds a surreal wit to this new genre of social-documentary photography. His photos are really funny, especially the ones where he superimposes naked butts onto unassuming pedestrians, creating the same simple absurdity as that Kids in The Hall “Headcrusher” skit where Mark McKinney squints his eye and squishes people’s heads between his thumb and forefinger. 

While Hollomon’s photos might be non-traditional for the fashion world, Vogue has taken notice of their creativity. Hollomon collaborated with them on an Instagram feature for New York Fashion Week this month, and is in the midst of an online feature slated for Paris Fashion Week.  I talked to Hollomon about his process and influences.



What’s your process like? 

I will find an image in a magazine or a book that speaks to me and I’ll cut it out and have it with me. And I’ll usually have between one and five in a folder in my pocket. And when I’m out in the city I wait until I come across a situation that works with one. And I’ll get super excited and pull it out. It’s just waiting for the two worlds to come together.

What sort of reactions do you get? I guess it’s New York so everyone is weird. But when you are on the subway holding up a little magazine clipping do people ever say anything?

I’ve never had anyone say anything. Like you said, it’s New York and people are just doing their own thing. And I try to do it as fast as possible because some day someone is going to say something. I don’t really notice when I’m doing my thing, but afterwards sometimes I can see in the picture someone’s face looking at me like I’m crazy.

They might care more if they knew you were super-imposing a naked butt on them.

Right. There’s some that I used to do where I didn’t have the opposite side of the clipping covered up and it was from a porno magazine and it was something really graphic. So that sometimes grabbed attention so now I cover the other side of the magazine clipping.

Are you influenced from any other collage artists?

Someone’s work who really spoke to me is Joel Kyack. He’s getting pretty popular. But he used to take these Dolce & Gabanna ads for their Blue perfume and he drew burqas over all the characters. It was so basic but it really stuck with me. That really influenced me even though he isn’t doing collage.




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But you’re both remixing fashion imagery in a way. Do you see collage as having a radical or disruptive potential?

I try to create something that looks beautiful. You can create a powerful image that at first looks nice and maybe is a bit funny but if you look a bit deeper, it also might have something more to say than that. And to make someone question like, why they find it attractive, for them to say, “this looks great but wait it’s weird, I shouldn’t think this looks attractive, but I do.”

How have iPhones and Instagram changed things for photographers?

It’s amazing. You can shoot anywhere and anybody can do it. So it ups the game regarding new ideas because everybody can shoot all the time as many photos as they want, so I think it pushes creativity.

There definitely seems like there is a great community on Instagram. Daniel Arnold is always plugging photographers on his Instagram. Who are some of your favorite photographers that you follow?

Daniel of course. Mae Elvis (@maeelvis) who is little known but she is doing these characters—sort of Cindy Shermanesque. She uses make up and wigs and creates backgrounds and takes these dramatic stills. And, I like Yuki James (@yukijames). He does some weird sexual gay stuff.

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