Des Moines photographer Mirza Kudić: ‘Just keep creating’

Even if you don’t know him by name, chances are you’ve seen some of Mirza Kudić’s photographs. Whether it was on social media or as wall-sized coverings in downtown Des Moines’ skywalk, his vibrant photographs of the city have quickly gained a following.

But what many may not know is it’s only in the last few years that Kudić’s interest in photography has blossomed.

This interview has been edited for conciseness.

C&M: What are you working on?

MK: I’m always working on creating new images of the city. So, new angles, new views, new days, and people respond really well to those. People have loved my work that I’ve done of the city. So, I just keep doing that.

I’m actually working with another guy and looking to rent out studio space in the old CenturyLink building. So, if we can make that happen we will try to progress this into more of a portrait-model type of work. I’ve done weddings, I might lead into that direction a little bit to see if that’s something I want to really go after.

So, if that works out then (our business) will be called Capital Photography. It’s just at the very beginning phases, so we’ll see how that goes.

C&M: How did you get involved with photography? Why did you choose to pursue this?

MK: I took a trip to New York City and I was just in love with it. I wanted to figure out how to capture it. I’d dabbled a little bit in it, but once I got to New York City I really dove into photography. After that I got more equipment and I was just non-stop learning about photography, anything and everything I could watch or get my hands on.

Then (about two years ago) we took a trip to Dubai and I was like, “Holy crap! I really need to photograph all of these places I want to go to.” So, I did more and more and more, and eventually with enough practice I got to where I am today. I love it. It’s just amazing.

People always ask me if I’ve been doing this for 10 or 20 years, but really it’s just been about two years seriously.

C&M: What keeps you motivated to pursue photography?

MK: Just trying to create something new. If you’re a creative, you’re motivated by trying to create something new and different.

There’s a lot of people out here in Des Moines running around with cameras and doing good work, but I like to think that my stuff is different. I feel that’s why I get the response that I do, because it is something different. I see it differently or my post-process is different. I’ve gotten to that point with a lot of people where they see a picture and they know it’s mine without seeing a name attached to it, and that’s really like one goal reached.

C&M: What is your process? What time do you shoot?

MK: Either sunset, early in the morning, or at night. There really is no process or plan. If it looks nice outside then I go. As far as planning, I don’t do much. I just kind of know what I want in my head and I go there and do it. When it’s cold I go, get out of my car, and in 30 seconds I’ve got what I need and I’m done. I’ve got a final image in my head of what I’m going to do and how I’m going to edit so then it’s really easy taking the photo.

Through my photography I’ve managed to get to know lots of people and get access to a lot of places. That’s why you see all these pictures I have from all these places no one else has because I’ve been able to, through connections, get access to a lot of places. I just promise people that if they let me come up to their place, I won’t make them look bad.

C&M: Who do you consider to be a mentor?

MK: Everyone that is doing something that I want to do. Really, if it’s anyone that I want to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, that’s a mentor to me. I want to learn from everyone. If they are somewhere where I want to be, they are my mentor until I reach where they are, and then I’m ready to pass them and ask, “Alright, who’s next?”

C&M: What excites you most about working and living in Iowa?

MK: Des Moines isn’t the biggest city in the world, but we have everything that you really want. We don’t have the biggest of skylines, but I like it. You can create a lot with it.

I started a thing I called a “Des Moines Photo Adventure.” I hosted the first one at the beginning of last year (at the Capitol), and about 60 people showed up. Some people drove as far as four hours to come and meet and learn and just hang out.

My goal when I bring people out is to ask ‘who is shooting in Automatic mode’ and get them out of Auto and teach them how to shoot in Manual. That’s the first priority. Then we shoot sunsets, long exposures and people ask a million questions. I tell them to write down their questions and ask. Maybe there’s something I can’t answer, but we’ll figure it out.

C&M: What has been an unexpected source of inspiration for your work?

MK: Really just creating images. Trying to do it different and do it better than anyone else. That’s it. Just keep creating.

When I started this, it was crap. It was awful. But I said ‘I’m just going to keep doing it and eventually I’m going to get good enough and someone will start noticing.’ And that’s what happened. I did it, and now I look back at the images I shot even a year ago that I thought were great and look back and think they’re crap.

About Mirza Kudić

Age: 33
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Twitter handle: @desmoinesphoto

Megan Bannister is a freelance writer based in Des Moines and a regular contributor to Clay & Milk.