Interview: Laura Kicey Goes to Iceland

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Laura Kicey’s Kicey to Iceland is among the first projects to be successful on Kickstarter. Laura, a photographer and designer, has raised $630 over ten days so far to visit Iceland and take photographs. (She was only seeking $350.) Her trip is planned for June.

Two things in particular seemed to help Laura raise so much so quickly: 1) she has a strong presence on Flickr, and she got the word out there. And second, she offered her backers real, tangible rewards: your choice of a nice print of one of her photos from Iceland. It nicely ties it all together.

I sent Laura some questions about her experience using Kickstarter, and about her project. Here are her responses.

Tell us about your project.

About a month ago I decided I was overdue a vacation and if I did not take a trip in the next six months I was going to be extremely put out. I haven’t left the country (except to go to Canada) since 2002 and the past two years I’ve had some health problems that made really traveling a bit prohibitive so it was time. Iceland has fascinated me for a while — it is a beautiful, remote country, rich in culture, it has cold weather and lots of abandoned houses in the countryside all of which make it completely alluring to me as a place to visit and photograph. Being photogenic is the top reason for me to go anywhere, as photography is my work and my pleasure. The more research I did the more I realized it was going to cost. One of my friends said, “I’d never go to Iceland, I’ll just live vicariously through you, can I sponsor your trip? Just give me a print of a photo of yours from the trip.” At first I kinda scoffed at the idea. But I’ve had success selling prints on Etsy, in galleries, to corporate art buyers and licensing images for commercial use — I realized that maybe people would consider making a small investment in exchange for a piece of art. I started off by posting about it on my Twitter/Facebook/Flickr, making listings via Etsy, but they weren’t keen on the sponsorship verbiage but I did get a bit of a start with the project. Then I caught wind of Kickstarter’s launch and it was THE perfect platform for this, I haven’t looked back since.

How did you decide on your rewards?

My trips are all about taking photographs, always. I thought giving backers a print would be a perfect way to give back to the people who were sponsoring the trip. It is certainly a unique and rather exotic location… certainly a step up from going down the shore — this way I feel like backers are getting something unique, photos of a once in a lifetime kind of trip — that being said, some of my sponsors *have* already been to Iceland. At least 2!

How many of your backers do you know personally?

Most of them I know (prior to signing up for Kickstarter - I had about 8 additional backers all of whom I know). 5 out of 12 on kickstarter I do not know, I actually got more backers I don’t know since I met my goal - its great that people I don’t know are that into my work and supporting the making of it enough to want a piece of it, sight unseen.

How are you going to be updating people as you go along?

I am hoping to make some blog-like updates, though abbreviated - while I am there: where I went, what I saw, misadventures, photographic evidence thereof. I believe at least the one hotel will have internet access. Since the midnight sun will be extending my days - I plan on being on the road as much as humanly possible, rather than in a hotel. Outside of the big cities I will be a bit out of touch web-wise, but when I return to Reykjavik for a recharge I am hoping to have some time to download some images and process them on the fly. I am all about instant gratification and letting people get a sneak peek along the way - and since I work digitally that probably won’t be a problem. Right now, more than a month before I leave I don’t have much to share, I’m sure as it gets closer, something will come to me.

Have you learned/discovered anything from the experience?

It has given some confidence in my ability to sell the idea of my work in an abstract way and opened a door for future projects. The existence of Kickstarter gives me a place where I can launch ideas I would have had nowhere else to present.

What was unanticipated about the experience?

I was surprised by how many people backed me in so little time - and honestly I was surprised as much by friends and acquaintances backing me as the complete strangers! Also I think it is pretty great to be vocal even in a tiny way in the development of a great idea, so being able to not only launch my project but discuss the my experience with the people on the backend is exciting. I’d be happy to give you more feedback when my transaction goes through and I complete the process and wrap up the project, which I don’t expect to be until early July.

What, if anything, would you change about your project?

I’d like to set my goal higher without sabotaging getting the pledges I already have! I feel like meeting my goal has made people lose some interest in supporting it. I wish I was doing some photo projects right now I could share, so people could see some current work but I’m only doing client work I have to keep private. I guess most of the people sponsoring me already know my work pretty intimately, I just want to look like I am being visibly active somehow.

Who’s your favorite band?

I am a little wishy washy on naming a favorite anything, but lately I’ve been listening to Animal Collective, Andrew Bird and Beirut a lot. The most recent Animal Collective is infectiously happy, which normally I would find tedious as I like my melancholy entirely too much, but this I can’t get enough. Andrew Bird combines two things I adore - crazy vocabulary and strings - in a way that just does it for me. Beirut sounds like music made by a bunch of guys with Rasputin beards and concertinas on their knees, how could I resist that?