Leslie Kirchhoff: Photographer by Day, DJ By Night
When it comes to time consuming jobs, freelance photography and all of the intricacies that go with it is high on the list. If we had to pick another, we might say DJ-ing, a career that consists solely of all nighters and wild parties. Now imagine doing both at once. Welcome to the world of Leslie Kirchhoff.
But Kirchhoff’s life wasn’t always so hectic. Like many of the most successful New Yorkers, she started out living the small town life, in her case in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Metropolitan life suited itself well to the pursuit of her dual passions; after starting out as an intern for Vogue she remains a frequent collaborator for the fashion giant and her DJ skills are in constant demand. We caught up with the girl about town to discuss her many talents, her unbridled love for pizza, and the pressure of living up to her Instagram (one that GQ says you should follow).
Tell me a little about your collaboration with T2?
Well I’ve been working on a little personal business project called [Disco Kitchen](http://www.disco-kitchen.com/ ), making what we call artisanal ice cubes. So I thought it was a perfect fit to combine that with the tea. We freeze things into cubes, so I experimented with a bunch of different things: putting the actual tea inside the cubes, freezing the tea at different stages of its steeping, then we put actual ingredients in it. We really played around with every aspect of it. And of course taking photos of it.
What makes food such a prominent subject in your photographs?
I think it’s a cool prop (laughs). I feel like I’m more natural at styling food than I am with shoes or bags. It’s always interesting, it makes for a cool or unexpected or different kind of photo.
It’s striking to see a high-fashion model dangling pasta into their mouths.
Oh yes! That was a fun one. I wanted to do a whole fashion/food editorial, and my friend runs a fashion and food website. So we collaborated on it and we just went to a bunch of our favorite restaurants in the city.
I’ve read that you ritually eat pizza before your DJ sets. Why is that?
I do (laughs). Pizza is my all time favorite food ever. I pretty much eat it all the time, but definitely before I do DJ sets. I do it because I don’t want to get too many drinks in me, and pizza’s a good stomach filler. And it just makes me happy. My exes have realized that if I’m having a bad day they can just bring or send me a pizza and I’ll immediately be in a better mood. I’m smiling constantly when I eat it.
So how did you start DJ-ing?
I’ve always really loved music, and my parents raised me on a bunch of different stuff with their record collection, and I also played music. But my cousin was a radio DJ when I was young, he was one of the biggest radio hosts in Atlanta. When I was little he took us on a tour of his job and showed us what he did, and I remember thinking how that was the coolest job—to play music and be paid to do it for people. But I was exposed to the performance side of DJ-ing when I moved to New York and started going out, and I saw how much fun it looked. I didn’t actually start until I moved to Paris. I was dating this guy who was a full time DJ and he slowly started teaching me. It felt kind of natural, oddly. I had a weird muscle memory for it.
You really embody the small towner who’s made it to the top of the big city, what advice would you give to the small towners attempting a similar move?
Come here with a good attitude and outlook. And honestly just be a friendly person. You’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t have a good outlook on life. That’s pretty basic, but helpful nonetheless.
Do you have any tricks to getting the party started when you’re DJ-ing?
I never really plan out my setlists beforehand, if there’s two songs that I know go really well together I’ll keep those little tricks up my sleeve. But it’s fun to let yourself go with the flow, some of the best combinations I’ve come up with have been me feeling a certain moment. Trying new things is the best way to find something cool and unique. When I was first learning we would go practice before people showed up, but the real learning came when I was left running the DJ booth by myself. I just had to do it.
Is there a particular one of your shoots that you feel most proud of?
My picture of Pharrell for Vogue, I think. He was getting his hair cut and was wearing the little barber cape, it was a very cool moment. Not many people see or imagine Pharrell in a barber cape.
What about nightlife? What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
When I first came back to New York after learning to DJ in Paris I got a residency at Boom Boom Room, which funnily enough I had worked at as a pool table girl for two weeks when I was going to NYU. I consider that the best time period of partying. My friends and I were all so young and fresh to New York and we felt so honored to be at Boom Boom Room. I would put everybody on the list and we would dance to disco at 4am, it was special.
After being listed as an ‘Instagram to Follow’ by the likes of GQ and Nylon, do you feel a lot of pressure when you’re using Instagram?
I totally do. Every time I post a picture I lose like, 20, followers, no matter what it is. So I’m always wondering if something’s worth it or not, but I’m getting to a place of ‘it’s my life, I’m going to do what I want.’ But it’s bad. Sometimes I’ve gone back and forth between the right filter for what seemed like an hour to see if it’s matched my recent color scheme. But it’s nice to have the followers.
Do you have something in particular that you look for when you’re taking a photo?
I think I realized this before photography, but I would always look at the situations I was in and see these cool things and think ‘I wish I could show my friends how pretty this is.’ Even a specific moment, it doesn’t have to be looking at something like the Grand Canyon, even if it’s a really pretty tree, I would think how I wish I could freeze that moment. Somehow it took me a while to pick up a camera, but I feel the same now. I try to capture the actual feeling of being in that moment, or make it look better than it is. Most of the time a picture or a video will make something look way more enjoyable than it actually looks, which is kind of the goal of it all.
Check out Leslie’s website here
Listen to her SoundCloud here