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Meet Kay Mercer of Busybody Deer in Midtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kay Mercer.

Kay, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I practically grew up with a camera in my hand, thanks to my phenomenal parents who never even thought about taking selfies instead. The first picture I ever took was of them in a park, and I remember my mom putting her 1997 Nikon SLR into my chubby three-year-old hands while repeating over and over, “Don’t cut off the heads! Don’t cut off the heads!”, which is normally not a sentence one hears firmly whispered to a toddler. From that moment on, I was fascinated by portraiture and took every opportunity to hold a camera. In high school, I started freelancing for events and senior portraits, took film and digital photography courses, and founded a photo society to teach other students the processes. After graduation, I took a gap year to work in a portrait studio in addition to freelancing, which allowed me to learn the staging and shooting skills necessary to create my style. I am now attending Savannah College of Art and Design at the Midtown Atlanta campus, pursuing degrees in commercial fashion photography and fashion marketing, with a minor in advertising art direction. These programs have given me the gift of a clear vision for my work – I find myself enjoying broad daylight and natural imagery juxtaposed with bold colors and highly stylized settings in my fashion editorial pieces. My portraits are largely inspired by Annie Leibovitz, Miles Aldridge, and Petra Collins, with nods to their uses of color and meticulously conscious styling. Recently, I have begun my foray into using portraiture as queer representation – to design and photograph worlds where people in my community can be fully expressive and visible. My artistic mission is to give my subjects and audience the greatest gift art can give: empowerment.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My toughest struggle has been finding my own artistic voice. I love exploring different styles and teaching myself versatility, but it took years for me to learn what I love most. When I first began freelancing, my work was majorly standard posed portraiture, such as prom or family pictures. The studio I worked at generally required the same “look” – I mostly worked with high school seniors, families, and one- and two-year-olds. Although I learned how to light and pose directly from these experiences, I was stuck in a rigid, cliche style that I call “Pinterest mom with a camera” until I started at SCAD. I am beyond grateful that I am now surrounded by artists who will always ask me “what if?”, and let me play around with their makeup and outfits until it feels perfect.

Please tell us about Busybody Deer.
As a freelancer, I specialize in stylized editorial portraiture. I shoot look books, modeling portfolios, headshots for performers, product images for designers, and spreads for publications. However, I am very versatile in my skill set and can work in any given style and setting, I am also beginning to shoot more events for the Atlanta queer community, such as drag shows and festivals, and would love to further explore “on-the-fly” shoots.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
When I was a toddler, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom and grandma. I remember running around the table taking in all of the smells and sounds, my favorite of which was the Mamma Mia! soundtrack blasting from a 2002 alarm clock/radio/CD player. They taught me how to dance (or at least try) to Voulez-Vous and Honey, Honey, and I was convinced that I knew every word. I learned an appreciation for performance from the women in my life, and this carries through my work.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Image of me by Kyle M. Martin

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