Despite the numerous healthy, encouraging relationships Surico experienced on her journey in photography, she cites a particularly toxic relationship that both crushed her and taught her to stand up for herself. In 2013, she shared about a destructive relationship in which she was emotionally and mentally abused for eleven months. “The guy that I was with limited and controlled me, manipulated me, and hindered my progress with photography. I remember there were multiple times when I was forced to miss a concert that I had been approved for because he was angry or mad at me for something.” Once again, Surico was encouraged by her tight-knit tribe of friends and family, this time to end things with him, and it was after this that Surico says she really started to come into her own in her art and life in general. What specifically did she take from those months of abuse and her brave moment of defiance? “I should not let anyone control me and what I want for myself and my art.” With any creative industry, there is always a perceived notion of what a professional is, how much experience is revered and what kind of equipment you should have. Surico found this when she was breaking into concert photography, admitting that she had no clue what she was doing; she was just winging it and ended up in an industry that was filled with male artists who were significantly older than her, with more experience. Being sixteen at the time, she was both terrified and intimidated. “More often than not, I was both the youngest person shooting and the only girl, as well as back then I was shooting with a Canon Rebel and a kit lens, which made me feel even more intimidated once I saw everyone else’s gear.” However, the following morning brought a dark turn to Surico’s story. “The next day I woke up really late and started walking downstairs to say good morning to my grandma, but instead stopped halfway down the stairs as soon as I heard a few of my family members freaking out and crying. In that moment, I knew what had happened and felt completely devastated.” The death of her grandma was described by Surico as one of the saddest days of her life. Nevertheless, it is one that has certainly defined her mentality about her art. “Since that day, I felt like it was necessary and important for me to put every ounce of effort, creativity, and emotion that I could into my art and to try my best to make my dreams of being a photographer work out.” As she continued to pursue and develop her craft, Surico found that it was her family who enabled her to freely go after photography as a profession. Her parents allowed her to do dual enrollment full time and take a few classes per week in her last two years in high school, to allow her free time to hone her art. Even if they were concerned about her safety, as a sixteen-year-old girl wandering around concerts, both her parents still supported her, even in the small ways like giving her rides. Surico doesn’t take any of this for granted. “I am eternally grateful for my family and my friends who believed in me throughout these earlier stages of my life/passion/career and I would not be where I am today without them.” 42
But as she grew in her own experience, Surico discovered, “... through shooting and networking… there’s no reason to feel intimidated because everyone starts out somewhere and you don’t need exceptional gear to be a good artist.” For three years, Surico shot with her Canon T3i before upgrading to her Canon 6D, and was accustomed to defying people’s expectations with the art she could produce with what is known as an entry-level camera. “I took pride in that and I will continue to advocate that it’s possible to make what you have work,” Surico says. You would never know that this artist started off taking photos with her flip-phone, unable to afford the camera that would enable her to pursue her craft seriously. Kayla Surico’s work in both the music scene and with creative portraits evoke the emotion and mood that were there in the original moment, whether it was heart-pumping adrenalin mingling with lights and smoke, or intense intimacy and vulnerability of a boudoir shoot. And the most beautiful thing about the caliber of her work is this: she didn’t start off this way. In fact, it was her development on her journey that has created the artist and the art we see today.
On the cover, Brandon Woelfel // Featuring: Cary Fagan, Kiele Twarowski, Lloyd Pursall, Parker Woods and loads more.