PDN: How did you get
into this niche?
KRISTEN ANGELO: In 2014,
when Washington State legalized
cannabis, my boyfriend and I had
friends who acquired licenses for
recreational retail stores. They
asked my boyfriend to visit farms
and evaluate their products. I went
with him, and it kind of tugged at
my heartstrings. My father was a
lifetime user and grower. So I feel
quite connected with [the culture].
I did a little research online
and found there was a lot of bud
porn [ie, detailed, macro shots of
cannabis flowers], and there was
a lot of posed [photography] that
was trying to make the cannabis
culture sexy. But that’s not real
PDN: What did you want
to do differently?
KA: My approach was: Let’s
tell the whole story—how these
[growers] got here, what’s the
philosophy behind growing. It was
all about showing the big picture.
And I wanted to humanize it. I
wanted to share with other people
that this is not taboo, that it’s not
scary, it’s a powerful grassroots
social and political movement
that’s making substantial progress,
and it’s exciting.
PDN: But it’s still taboo in many
parts of the country. What would
you say to people who look
askance at the work you do?
KA: A really good way to look
at it is like any other reportage
photography. My purpose is to
deliver an authentic portrayal
of my subject. Looking at it from
that perspective, I don’t really
see anything wrong with it.
I think a lot of the misconception
[about the cannabis industry
and culture] is that people are
uneducated on the topic.
PDN: What are the misconceptions
you’re trying to counter?
KA: I think we’re all familiar
with the stereotypes that
linger: [that cannabis growers
and users] probably don’t
have a job, maybe they’re lazy,
they’re stoners, maybe not that
intelligent. But in actuality
people running these farms are
entrepreneurs. They’re very
intelligent and business-minded.
Kristen Angelo’s approach to
photographing the pot industry
and culture is “like any other
reportage photography,” she says.
LEFT: Cannabis drying after a
harvest at a growing operation.
BELOW: A couple shares a joint in
a photograph for a dating website.
BOTTOM LEFT: Cannabis product
shots for a commercial client.
WHAT’S YOUR NICHE?
The Seattle photographer is harvesting editorial and commercial opportunities
in the burgeoning marijuana industry. INTERVIEW BY DAVID WALKER