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Creator of the Week: Kieran McDonnell

Updated: May 19, 2023

This week we spoke with 35-year-old self-taught photographer and videographer Kieran McDonnell, aka K-Dawg, for #CreatorOfTheWeek

When Kieran is not working he’s out skateboarding, filming and taking photos.

Kieran and his friends even built a DIY skatepark, Barrer Cvlt but unfortunately the park was destroyed a few years ago.

However, it did mark the start of Barrer Cvlt, the skateboarding collective, which Kieran started to get the skateboarding scene going in Barrow-In-Furness:

“It worked really well and created such a lovely buzz here in Barrow bringing people together and people back on a skateboard”.

Barrer Cvlt’s DIY skatepark that K-Dawg helped build. Photo credit: Kieran McDonnell

It’s in the streets of barrow that his passion for photography and shooting skate videos flourishes:

“Skateboard photography is a complete other game. It’s always a challenge as it requires constantly changing the settings to get the right one and ideally you want to show the spot and the skateboarder doing the trick making both aspects look good”.

Kieran added jokingly: “It’s a fine balance and a skill to get it right, I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing”.

One of Kieran’s favourite photos he took of his friend Ty doing an indy grab.

Photo credit: Kieran McDonnell

But clearly Kieran does, he recently had his work featured in an exhibition at Theatre by The Lake in collaboration with Folded Zine an arts and culture bimonthly made by and for Cumbrian creatives.

Kieran was super stoked about the exhibition because it’s his first show to be a part of and he’d never really showcased his photography before until now.

K-Dawg exhibited nine works in a three by three grid that were all based in Barrow, a place that he describes as having a ‘bad rep’ but it’s a ‘photographer's playground’:

“The top three are based on the multi story here, the middle three are people of Barrow and the bottom three are chairs and bins” which Kieran admittedly added that he didn’t have a plan for but it all fell into place regardless.

One of the three multistory photographs Kieran has featured in the Folded Exhibition, Lost.

Photo credit: Kieran McDonnell

Kieran started his photography journey in Barrow and so it’s fitting that his work represents the town that shaped his style:

“I started my photography here and there’s so much variety from characters, backstreets, industrial buildings, abandoned places and scenic views, it has it all!”

Kierans drive for photography comes from, in his own words, being a skateboarder with ADHD:

“I’m constantly looking at things in different ways so if it looks interesting I’ll take a photo and it doesn’t always work out but that’s the fun part!”.

A shot of one of Kieran’s friend in action doing a back tail. Photo credit: Tim Smith

A good catalogue of K-Dawg’s work is primarily Landscape and Portraiture shot in Black and White film but Kierans told us that it’s not his main source of inspiration:

“I want to be able to look at everything and be inspired not just take landscape photos or portraits, it’s good to have a collection of variety”.

On top of photography Kieran also dabbles with collage and painting:

“I like to upcycle old skateboards with collage work and paint strange faces on pieces of wood I’ve found in the streets, something I started doing to keep my brain active while I wasn’t really skating. I don’t know what sparked it in all fairness”.

K-Dawg is driven to working with collage because of how accessible it is: "It’s free and you can make something out of nothing and once you start you can’t stop”.

Left: The strange faces on reclaimed wood Kieran has found.

Right: a collage piece Kieran has done on an old skateboard.

Photo credit: Kieran McDonnell

When Kieran’s not painting strange faces on pieces of wood, he’s worked alongside a local unisex streetwear and outdoors clothing shop Working Class Heroes to put on events with Barrer Cvlt:

“They wanted to be part of the movement and even looked after a few of the lads involved by gifting us shoes and prizes for events”.

Kieran’s collective are even doing a T-shirt collab with Working Class Heroes which is due to drop on the 2nd of June and worked with local artist Lee Bromfield to help with the design.

A painting Kieran has done on a skateboard representing Barrer Cvlt his skateboarding collective.

Photo credit: Kieran McDonnell

As for future plans as an artist, Kieran sees himself making skate videos and is going to keep pushing his photography, he adds that: “I feel these are my strongest and keep me active.”

On reflection of his growth as an artist he expressed how in the past he found himself second guessing his artwork but now understands the value in his work:

“I’ve made some pretty rad videos that have inspired people and I’ve even sold some artwork”.

A piece of artwork Kieran has done repping Barrer Clvt.

Photo credit: Kieran McDonnell

His advice for young Cumbrian creatives who want to make it in the arts scene was this:

“If there’s anything to take from this it’s don’t let anything hold you back, don’t let the voice in your head talk you out and don’t compare yourself to any other artists”.

He concluded with: “Be yourself and March forward. Do what you love, the only boundaries are the ones you make yourself”.

You can find Kieran’s photography here

You can find Barrercvlt here

You can find Working Class Heroes for that t-shirt drop here

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