Photographer, Bassist, Cereal Enthusiast
I’ve known Kieran Meyn about five years. Seen him between schools, jobs, women. He could say the same about me. He has a good laugh; spontaneous and a little deeper than you’d expect. We met because, when he wants to, he takes great pictures. He plays a mean bass, too. Right now, he does it in a throwback punk band called Bathurst. They’re working on an album. What I’ve heard makes my heart pick up a beat.
We met over Moroccan chili and bruschetta and he let me ask him a few questions.
Why do you do the things you do?
My whole thing is just being as honest as you can. Everyday you shoot someone beautiful. Or work with an artist. One of the things I see the least is honesty. It’s kind of a commodity that’s lost its value. I’ve worked with some pretty decent corporate and music clients. It pays my bills and it’s great work and I love the people I work with. But it isn’t really fulfilling like I’m putting something out there that’s furthering anything. It’s perfectly valid. But I’d rather shoot a character study with someone who is beautiful because of who they are. My whole mission would be to try to capture that in a way that maybe someone hasn’t looked at before.
In terms of music, my band Bathurst is doing our full-length right now. I’ll admit, we go into the studio, we multi-track everything. Whatever. But I would love to have a little bit more soul on a record. We are trying really hard to make that. We don’t have glossy photo spreads or anything like that. Because, I mean…shit. Not one of us is pretty. It’s not going to do me any favours. I’d rather someone listen to my music because it reminds them of a time in their life when they cared deeply about something that maybe didn’t matter at all. And maybe they were fine with that. It wasn’t going to pay your bills. It wasn’t going to put food on your table. But you really wanted to go to that damn show. You were going to drink your face off. And you were going to party. And that was fine. Inside everyone is something that’s innately human and flawed and I think often there’s sort of a conscious rejection of that. But without some measure of honesty in your life, what have you got?
When you’re taking someone’s picture how do you know when you’ve captured some essence of that person?
There’s this quote I always come back to as a photographer. And as a sort-of life lesson. It comes from Annie Leibovitz. She has this book called Annie Leibovitz At Work. At the end there’s this Q+A section. Someone asks, ‘How do you know?’ She just goes, ‘It takes what it takes.’ And, really, that’s what it’s all about. My shoots don’t start when I pick up the camera. They start when someone shows me something real. Or something that I believe in, at least. Whether or not the things I believe in are real remains to be seen. If you’re working with a great actor, is everything you see on that screen, or are the characters that you fall in love with, real? Absolutely not. But to you they’re believable. So to my mind, if you can portray something that makes you feel something – whether it’s joy or absolute revulsion – I win. If I don’t make you feel something then I’ve failed terribly. That’s really where it starts and ends for me. I think really being able to understand people; really being able to get in someone’s headspace is the key to getting them to show you something real.
Where is the one place where you really feel like yourself?
There are two, actually. The first is my mother’s kitchen.
I was adopted. I won the lottery in that regard. And I think the way I was raised by my parents was different than the way people who are simply born into a family are raised. (But)I don’t know that that’s true. I only know one way.
My parents and I have been through a lot, as anyone who’s in their twenties probably should with their parents. If you haven’t, then you fucked up and so did they. (Laughs). You know, every time you meet someone new, you tell the same stories and all those little quirks come out? After a while, you kind of understand how they’re going to come out. You know the best way to spin them. But my parents… all the back story’s there. They know all the context. So it makes me feel like myself. My parents know pretty much everything there is to know about me. So I go to my parents’ place and all those things about being a photographer, being a musician, being “YOUR NAME” – it doesn’t exist. You’re just their son. And it makes you so comfortable. It’s really useful to have that context. It grounds me. The people who love you most see the worst sides of you. Because you let them. There are things that I’ve said and done to my parents that, in retrospect, you feel terrible for when you get older. But, at the time, you didn’t know better. Or, maybe you did and just refused to acknowledge that you knew better. So, for what it’s worth: Mom, I feel sorry for a lot of things. But there are still scars. And the fact that you can see all of them sort of counts for something. I have a profound love and respect for my parents that I don’t think I could ever really verbalize. When I go to their place, I know it’s home.
The other one. Find me any dirty VFW Hall on a Saturday night that’s rammed full of kids jumping on each other. That’s the person I’ve become. I grew up in places like that. That’s the parts your parents don’t see. When you’re out earning your own scars. So if I walk into some local show with some band playing too fast and too loud that can’t keep it together but the kids don’t mind and they’re loving it? I understand that. It’s not even a question of fitting in. Even if it’s not bands that I care for or want to see – and it’s awesome if it is – if I walk in and there are 500 kids going nuts in a room no bigger than this one, I know exactly how those kids feel. That’s why I feel comfortable there. Because I understand them.
What’s something you’ve learned from being around your parents?
I like that you just started to smile.
The first one is that the things you want and the things you need out of life are very rarely the same. You may or may not want to admit it. But until you understand that that’s the case, you’re a glutton for punishment. And that’s cool, too.
The other thing is that there are a million different types of people in the word. Each with their own history and their own story and their own way of doing things. And not all of them are ever really going to understand each other. But…trying is what counts. Trying counts for a lot. Even if you can’t make it happen and things don’t work out. A million times a day there are things I fuck up. But I’m gonna take a crack at it and fuck it up royally and walk up with a mess in my hands rather than having sat there and been like, ‘Well, Frank Oz told me that there is no try.’ That’s useless thinking. My parents are, in their own way, very different people. And, man, my mother’s PR Agent is raging right now. But no marriage is perfect. And my parents openly acknowledge that. But it’s good. They talk. And, really, that’s what counts. Whether or not you really understand the world at large, or yourself, or even the person you love – or why you love them – the fact that you try to make it work, and they’re trying to make it work…
Last one. Thinking about this, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to ask. But there’s an easy way to do it. Straight. What in your life scares you?
What in my life scares me…When I was younger – less so now, because you understand that it’s part of the contract you sign when you’re born – I used to have a really bad death fear. I was really unwilling to accept the idea of passing, essentially. Coming to grips not only with mortality but that, some day, everything that I’ve had, all the thoughts that I think are amazing, and all the things that I’ve done – at the end of the day it all boils down to zero. My mother told me once that the only way you can do anything with it, the only way you can have it be more than zero – even if it’s an iota – is to pass what you know along into the world. The things that matter to you. And hope that someone will keep that ethos alive. Even if it’s only your family members who survive you. I’m the last Meyn in my family. I’m the only offspring of three brothers. I’m kind of the dodo bird but, regardless of that, it’s a hell of a lot of pressure on a young kid. Despite all my, ‘Fuck yeah, punk rock!’ I want to be that boring guy. I want to settle down and have a wife. And have kids. And have a shitty home in the suburbs that I can bitch about. And talk about when I used to be cool. And have my kids not get it at all because I’m lame.
But that’s sort of also what scares me. I live a freelance life and I play in a band. It may seem cool on paper. But cool doesn’t keep the heat on. Cool doesn’t keep the water on. Cool doesn’t do anything, really, other than it’s fun. When you’re 23 it’s great because having fun is what you’re all about. When you’re 45, cool is a lot less cool. It doesn’t really matter. One of my things is that I’ve dropped out of two post-secondary institutions. On paper, I’m a fucking failure. But, to me, I’m having a great damn time. But, if we’re being honest, one of the things that scares me the most is getting to that place when I’m 40-whatever and not being able to provide what I need to for my kids to have a great life. To be able to live happy. And, really, to be able to afford to grow up. I’ve been able to put some money away, which is great. But it’s not enough for a mortgage. It’s not enough to put clothes on a kid’s back. It’s not enough to feed three people. Hedonism’s awesome. Don’t get me wrong. But at a certain point you have to be able to look forward. That’s part of growing up. That, as much as I want it, is terrifying.
I think that last thing is losing my parents. Like most twentysomethings, we have that veneer of post-adolescence we try really hard to maintain. But, really, it’s made out of wall-board. You get it wet and it falls apart. And I’m aware of it. So it comes back to the first thing: death. Part of that contract is that I’m going to lose them. And whether or not I want to let go of it, the rug’s going to get pulled out. And it scares me. Because I don’t think I love anything in my life more than my parents. To lose that, and to lose it unwillingly, what’s scarier than that, really?
All you can really do is try to have respect for what they leave behind. Their ethos.