While the idyllic golden-hour sunsets and classic cars set against lush, jungle backdrops in Kristen M. Brown’s photographs are not what initially brought me to Costa Rica, they are indeed a part of its allure as well as partly responsible for why in the past four years, I’ve drifted further and further from wanting to call anywhere else home. As such, I was excited to catch up with Kristen for this interview not only to learn more about what led her to become a photographer, but also how her shared experience of uprooting her city life to start anew in the tropics has impacted her creatively. I know it certainly has had a profound impact on me, but I’ll let her tell you her story…

When did your interest in photography begin?

As a kid, I loved watching slide shows from my parents’ travel adventures (they both worked + flew for PanAm). I took black & white film photography in both middle school and high school, and fell in love with the whole process of learning to shoot film, developing, and then making prints in the dark room. But it wasn’t until my later 20s, once I traded my heels in New York City for a surfboard & camera in Costa Rica, that I really started to pursue and give myself permission to consider photography as a profession. Before that, I was so focused on getting good grades, playing competitive basketball in both high school and college, and working hard so I could graduate college to secure a “good job”. 

How did you develop your style as an artist?

Living in Costa Rica, surrounded by such beautiful nature, magical sunsets, and dreamy waves to surf 100% has influenced my photography style. It’s been so rewarding to see how I’m growing as a photographer, as well as developing and refining my own style since I first started really shooting consistently ~8 years ago. I look back on my early work and have to remind myself that we all start at the beginning. It’s been a slower evolution and journey, and for me it’s all about repetition and learning while out shooting as well as during the editing process. Photographing different subjects from destination weddings, family photos, and product photos, to my fine art landscape photography, all have taught me something – it’s like cross training for photography!

In what ways did making the leap from the US to Costa Rica influence you creatively and can you tell us the story behind this major life transition?

In 2011, I made a New Year’s resolution to learn how to surf, which then led to me taking a surf trip on a whim to Costa Rica -- those two decisions for sure helped shape who and where I am today.

When I first moved to Costa Rica, I convinced the surfboard shaper Robert August, who happens to be a legend in surfing (as he co-starred in the iconic surf film The Endless Summer), to hire me to help grow his business. As someone who was brand new to the surfing world, it was amazing to be taken under the wing by someone who has so much knowledge about the history of surfing. If the waves were good during the middle of the day, Robert would tell me to stop working and go surf. For the first couple of years in Costa Rica, I was working for Robert and absorbing all the amazing nature – especially the jaw-dropping sunsets. 

And that’s where my start of pursuing photography started – those sunsets inspired me to consistently pick up my camera to capture their beauty every day. I’d share my sunset photos on Instagram (back when IG was good ole IG!), and through sharing, that gave me the confidence to make my sunset photos into postcards to sell in stores in town (Tamarindo). The postcards instantly were a hit, which gave me further confidence to keep pursuing photography.

That leap that I first made, leaving my job in NYC for CR, has helped influence me to continue to follow my dreams and create my own path. It definitely is not always easy and can be nerve wracking at times, but it’s been one amazing and fulfilling ride. And I believe you can see that in my work, that I like to capture dreamy landscapes and photos that invite you into the adventure.

What subject or subjects do you most enjoy capturing and why?

I love photographing beautiful landscapes and those OMG moments in nature. For me, it’s this reminder of how amazing our planet is and how we are all connected – we truly are so lucky to live on Earth. Also, give me a classic car - old Land Rovers, FJ40s, Broncos, VW Buses, etc  –  backdropped in a beautiful location, and I’m there!

What do your days look like as a creative business owner?

If the tide is right, I love to start my mornings with a sunrise surf session. After that, I’m at home working during the day (either editing photos or working on growing my business), and then at sunset, I’m either on the beach photographing with clients or out walking with my chihuahua Gidget, capturing the beautiful golden light and sunset. As a small business owner, there is always something to do and work on!

What is the magic of photography for you?

For me, the magic of photography is seeing how the photographer views the world – it’s a passport into their soul. It’s this beautiful visual language that’s unique to each and every one of us – we can be in the same place at the same time, but our photographs - our viewpoint - are beautifully different. And on top of that, it’s this magic that we can capture a fleeting moment in time to remember it forever.When I pick up my camera, the world around me transforms and I’m so honored that I have the opportunity to share this with others.