copyright ©2005—2011 tani ehu kai mcbride
born on Kauai, 1972.
Kai McBride currently teaches photography and manages the photography facilities at Columbia University. His work has been exhibited in museum and gallery exhibitions, and is held in public and private collections. In 2008, he received his Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Columbia University and was commissioned to turn his thesis project into a public artwork along an 80 foot wall in Times Square. He is currently working on a book of his black and white landscape photographs from Tampa Florida. Mr. McBride lives in Brooklyn where he built a small darkroom in his railroad apartment.
Download Curriculum Vitae (36k PDF)
PERSONAL PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORY 1972—
- First Grade, Ashland OR,get my first camera, cartridge point and shoot. Take "action" shots of my friend and I doing wheelies on our bicycles. Ride my bicycle about a 1/2 mile away to drop off the film and pick it up- it never comes back from the lab fast enough.
- Third Grade, Austin TX, my half-sister Bridgette shows me some black and white contact sheets of 35mm self-portraits, the first I'd ever seen. They look beautiful and mysterious.
- Sixth Grade, Honolulu HA, take a lot of pictures of my friend Nashringa. Some action shots where it's supposed to look like he's being attacked by a man-eating bush. Start experimenting with applying bleach to the surface of the prints which causes them to fade to yellow and then bleach to white. A lot of images where everyone's head is replaced by a glowing bleached-out ball.
- Eighth Grade, Highlands NC, meet up with Bridgette again, see the photo work she'd been doing over the last couple years— i'm impressed. I start taking pictures where i put the camera on the ground in tall grass and weeds, trying to make them look like trees in a strange forest— most are out of focus— little "tip" stickers from the photolab advise me to not get so close.
- Twelfth Grade (1990), North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem NC, during my second year I get an A in Art History and qualify, along with a few others, to take a two month photo class. Already awakened artisticaly after a year and a half at NCSA, this class comes along at the perfect time. Although I had enjoyed my other classes, this was the first time I felt completely involved. I roamed the streets and paths of Winston-Salem looking for material. Many portraits of friends, and innumerable self-portraits. An image from my first roll of film, a high-contrast wet leaf I found on the floor of an abandoned garage, won a competition prize among area high school students. My Senior Thesis incorporates self-portraits, and I start looking for schools with little structure and a good photography and film department.
- Summer 1990, Lenoir NC, spending the night at Rachel, Liza, and Jesse's house in Happy Valley the day before Rachel and I drive up to Boston to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. That evening I use their darkroom for the first time.
- 1990—1992, SMFA Boston MA, taking a mix of film and photography classes. Spend most of my time experimenting with different techniques, not on creating any specific body of work. Take color classes my 2nd year, don't fall for it. Work study job at the photo stockroom, which I really enjoy.
- Summer 1992—Fall 1993,Boston MA drop out of the Museum School (too expensive) and after a circuitous series of events wind up working at the Museum School as the Weekend Stockroom Manager. The job is only 3 days a week, 19hrs total, paying $8.50 an hour. My good friend Jyl Kelley is the manager and we have a great year together. During the slow hours, particularly Saturday mornings, I teach myself about all of the equipment and read all of the technical books I can get my hands on. I learn more about photography during this year than I had the previous two. Start using an old wooden 8x10 Ansco camera that nobody else ever used. Couldn't afford 8x10 film, so I use photo paper as a negative instead, later printing through it to make a positive image. Jim Dow, photo faculty, lends me one of his 8x10 Deardorff cameras for the summer so that I can copy the design to build my own. I fall in love with the Deardorff.
- Fall 1993, Boston MA, Carl Sesto, photo and offset printing faculty, tells me he has an old aquaintence who's starting up a new business using computers to print fine-art photographs on water color paper. They need someone to scan negatives and make prints and he recommended me.
- October 1993, Medford MA, after two interviews I have the job. Company is called New American Platinotype Company, NAPC. Founded by Robert J. Steinberg, photographer and co-founder with his wife Sura of Palladio makers of machine coated Platinum/Palladium photo paper. The territory is new, there are only 2 or 3 other people trying to use these large IRIS inkjet printers to produce quality prints on nice paper. We have to make up all of the rules ourselves through hours of experimentation. We work 6 and sometimes 7 days a week, 14 and 16hr days. During this time I fine tune my printing eye for contrast, tone, color, etc... After a year we are in good shape, the images look great, but unfortunately the process is just too expensive for anyone to pay for, the company changes focus to selling our knowledge of the computers and the printers. But before we stopped doing the prints I had the opportunity to work on many great images, including work by Sally Mann and Cindy Sherman, Time Covers by Gregory Heisler, and many others.
- October 1993 — October 1997, one of the main benefits of working at NAPC is access to the printer, ink, and paper for personal work. Often after an 80 hour week I'd come in on Sunday to print my own work all day. crazy. This was a great period for me creatively, and I developed my person style/aesthetic during these years. Everyone at NAPC and Palladio was a great influence as well. Rob and Sura's house is a gallery and library combined, with Rob's prints everywhere and a plethora of good photo books to browse. During our trips to New York we'd meet up with Rob's friends and see some great work. One highlight was drinking Sake with Mary Ellen Mark, Greg Heisler, and Rob over dinner in SoHo.
- 1994 Photographica, Boston MA, went with Rob to the Photographica show with money in my pocket and my eye set on buying a nice 4x5 camera. Tired of shooting 35mm, and longing for that larger negative. My dream was to find a Deardorff, but they are rare to find and often very expensive—so I was set to get anything that I could use. Barely had we walked in the door before Rob recognized someone at one of the booths and they had a beautiful 1936 5x7 Deardorff with a 5x7 and 4x5 back. Since they knew Rob, and had met me once before, they sold it to me for $500.00. I found a lens from another associate for $250 and I was on cloud nine. This became my main camera for the next ten years. I've dragged it all over New England, North Carolina, and even once to the top of the Sigesaulle in Berlin. I love this camera and hope it lasts another 66 years.
- 1997—2000, Hibernation, After leaving NAPC I went to work for TechSquare, a computer consulting company. Deprived of my dear Iris printer, and the peers of NAPC, my camera gathered dust. It seemed too hard to try and get a darkroom space together. I turned attention more to music.
- September 2000, Brooklyn NY, moved away from Boston after ten years. Working part-time remotely for TechSquare. Wanted more time for photography and music.
- November 2000 to November 2001, Brooklyn NY, the pencamProjekt is born. Wanting to help retrain my eye, and get back into the rhythm of taking pictures, I start a semi-daily photo journal using a cheap lo-res digital camera. The project is a huge personal success, generating 2411 images that document a very important year of my life.
- Summer 2001, Lenoir NC, living in Lenoir with Rachel for the summer. I once again have access to her mother's darkroom, and the time (if not money) to start working with my Deardorff again. It's instant love from the first negatives that are processed. I also fall in love with downtown Lenoir and spend many a hot day walking all over setting up my camera. I become a regular and recognizable site on the old main street. When we leave at the beginning of September I have a nice portfolio of work, dry mounted and ready for presentation, to take with me.
- October 2001, New York City, the economy is gone in NY. Can't afford to stay. I return to Boston and TechSquare. I find out that my photograph Burns Oil from Lenoir has won 2nd place for B&W photo from Caldwell County Arts Council's "Snapshots of Lenoir" competition and show. $50.00 prize, which I desperately needed at that point in time.
- February 2002, Boston MA, living in the South End on Tremont Street. Purchased, trays, beakers and chemicals, and converted my bathroom into a place where I can at least process film. In the meantime I've been shooting Poloroid Type 55 film which produces a 4x5 print and negative at the same time. I scan these negatives to have a look a the image before trying to make a print.
- April 2002, Boston MA, Purchase Pentax Digital Spotmeter at E.P. Levine (where I bought my Gossen Luna Star 10 yrs previous). I love this meter.
- May 2002, Carmel CA, Attend a workshop given by Kim, Gina, and Cole Weston. Primarily as a pilgrimage to where Edward Weston lived. Saw his house, darkrroom, held some of his negatives, and won a print by raffle that Kim printed. Bonus: Kim and Gina are wonderful people and excellent hosts. Leave with my photography batteries fully charged.
- September 2002 Asheville NC, Bought a great house in Asheville. Already have the darkroom planned on paper. Begin construction on the darkroom. Turns out to be a larger project than I initially anticipated. Started with building my own sink out of wood. Many adventures with plumbing under the house, building walls, hanging doors, designing my own safelights, and making the room light tight follow.
- February 2004 Brooklyn, NY, Moved back to NYC. Through contacts at Cooper Union I wind up photographing eleven buildings for the 4th edition of Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel's The Landmarks of New York: An Illustrated Record of the City's Historic Buildings. For many years I keep running into other photographers who also worked on this book.
- May 6th 2004 Brooklyn, NY, Purchase a beautiful Nikkor 120mm f8 SuperWide Copal 0 Lens to use on the Deardorff. One of the few 120mm lenses I found that had coverage for 5x7. My first purchase of a brand new lens. Reuben Cox provides a nice piece of mahogany that I use to make the lens board.
- July 3rd 2004 Brooklyn, NY, Decided that what I really needed was not a fancier roll film camera, but a 'better' large format camera. something tighter with more movements....and 4x5. Spend a week or two pouring over photo.net and large format articles and finally decide upon a K.B. Canham DLC45. This is an all metal camera which is light and compact. The biggest selling feature was the seemingly unlimited movements.
- August 31st 2004 Annandale-On-Hudson, NY, Meet with Stephen Shore. Show him prints of my Berlin photographs. He accepts me into his Master Class program. I get to meet with him every 6 weeks or so, or whenever I have new work I'd like him to look at. Extremely excited to be working with him. It also helps inspire me to make more work so that I have something to show.
- May 9th 2005 Brooklyn, NY, Okay, I'm on a buying binge. After a lot of internal debate I decide that I'm ready to get an 8x10 camera; take the plunge. This is the format that Edward Weston used his entire life, to great success. Stephen Shore tells me that it is the format of choice, and that 4x5 is for students. Joel Sternfeld tells me that it will ruin my life. Thus warned I picked up a beautiful 1951 Deardorff at Photo Habitat in Manhattan (same place I bought the 4x5). I contact printed on Kodak's beautiful Azo paper, until they discontinued it--Alas !
- November 10th 2005 Brooklyn, NY, Continuing with the buying spree I bought a beautiful used Hasselblad outfit from KEH. Another camera that I had wanted for a long time and is now significantly cheaper on the used market as the pros go digital. Good for me.
- March 25th 2006 Brooklyn, NY, Offered one of the four photography slots at the Visual Arts Program of Columbia University School of the Arts MFA program. I'm off to grad school ! Starting this fall and graduating in 2008.
- September 2006—May 2008 Columbia University, two intensive years of graduate school. Spend 7 days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day on campus. amazing.
- May 21st 2008 Columbia University, receive my Master of Fine Arts Degree from Columbia University.