Fashion photographer Kim Myers’ upcoming exhibition at the Alchemy gallery on the Lower East Side will be a homecoming of sorts.
After relocating to Winter Garden, Florida, for family reasons a few years ago, she now divides her time between there and New York City. But the lure of Manhattan was instilled in her as child.
“As soon as I knew that New York City existed, I gave up saving money for a horse,” she said. “I remember wearing these see-through Gloria Vanderbilt jeans that you wore tights under and walking around our kitchen in Michigan and just being determined to get out of there.”
Growing up in Michigan provided a good base and foundation for her creativity, but she always had a foot out the door. As a child between the ages of 7 and 17, Myers and her family spent four months each year in Amsterdam. Those sojourns allowed for further travel as a youngster, and that intercontinental exposure created a contrast that still comes through in her work.
At 19, she took a bus to Manhattan’s Port Authority with about two weeks’ worth of money to make something happen professionally even though she knew no one in the city. Determination and a strong sense of place spurred her on to enroll at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she first met Francesco Scavullo and started interning for the respected fashion photographer. Doing the window displays at Urban Outfitters’ 8th Street store was one of the jobs she picked up to get by. “I loved it and met so many great people there. My early days in New York are interesting now because so many of the people that I met then have gone on to have these incredible careers,” she said. “It was just this amazing time. Yes, we worried about money, but not as adults. We worried more about just creating.”
Myers and her former husband Donald Robertson (whom Meyers remains friendly with), worked as the creative team for the launch of MAC Cosmetics in North America. Sympatico in their sensibilities and free from any corporate boardroom overrules, the pair dreamt up the color scheme, store interiors and rounded up RuPaul, Lady Bunny and other drag queens and celebrities for the “MAC Viva La Glam” campaign. Over time, that initiated generated $450 million for AIDS research. In 2008, Myers and Robertson, who went on to become an established artist, picked up stakes to live in Westchester County with their two children Drue and Miles — both of whom are now working in the film industry on different coasts.
“Kim Myers: Kool Thing” debuts Jan. 27 at the Alchemy gallery and will run through Feb. 12, thanks largely to Myers’ friend and 360bespoke founder Jeremy Murphy, whom she had worked with in his CBS days. He connected Myers with its cofounder Sean Thomas, who was keen to stage her first exhibition at the 55 Delancey Street space. Social and extroverted as she is, Myers said being on the other side of the lens has been a new examination. “What I do is really capture a moment or something about someone. Even when I have been tired on a lot of jobs, a lot of the images in this show are from the moment after the picture was taken for the client. It was a moment between me and the subject or an off moment.”
Always operating with a narrative in mind, Myers said she aims to create photos that prompt questions or curiosity “rather than it just be a beautiful model in a beautiful dress.” Interested in art, architecture, music, literature and films, she and her collaborators routinely talked about those subjects, drawing inspiration from a poem, fairy tale or director. At work on some personal projects after having taken a breather in the past few years, the lenswoman is currently working with Imagista magazine. Many of her fashion friends are expected at a Feb. 10 party during New York Fashion Week.
As the mother of another daughter and son who still live at home, Myers will be returning to the ever-morphing city. “When I first got there, it was much rougher around the edges for sure. I watched this transformation over the years. I feel that I have history on every street corner there. When I go back now, sometimes it has felt like a wounded bird in a way. That was sad to see and painful. But it’s coming back. You can never ever replace the people and kind of energy that is there.”
“I said to someone before, ‘New York opened her arms to me when I was young. But I feel like that again.’ When I moved here, I felt a little like a fish out of water and that I couldn’t get arrested here. Now I go back to New York and they’re like let’s throw a party [for you.]”