GUSTO35 ARTIST SPOTLIGHT
WRITTEN BY: MEGAN ARMSTRONG
Kyra Santoro had grown up in the Valley expressing herself through competitive dance or doodling while struggling to focus in class at school. She danced competitively from eight years old through high school, snowboarded in the winters, wakeboarded in the summers. She doodled aimlessly—black and white line designs, suns, a lot of flowers, a lot of butterflies, even mushrooms in high school—but how to channel her creativity came into a sharper focus when her friend got a film camera.
"That was it for me. As soon as my friend got that Leica, I was like, 'Oh my God, I need a film camera. I have to have one. I can't not have one.' As soon as I saw the photos, it was a wrap for me. So I asked my mom, for my [22nd] birthday, 'Can you get me a film camera?' She was like, 'Is there any kind in particular?' I was like, 'No, just get me a film camera.' She got me a Canon AE-1. That camera, to this day, is still like my baby. I love that camera. I have a couple now, but that one is my baby. I love that camera so much."
Before that, she found herself on the other side of the camera. "When I turned 18, I went to open calls for agencies, and I then got signed to Wilhelmina, and then I started modeling. I feel like I've really lucky that I've done a minimal amount of e-commerce, sort of like the boring modeling, and I've done such a large amount of the creative, magazine editorial, fashion, lookbooks, where you really do have a lot of room to create something with the stylist, the makeup artist, the photographer [to] create a really dope image."
Unfortunately, Kyra's first film roll with her Canon AE-1 didn't produce any images. "I was so excited. I shot all these photos. I couldn't wait to see them. I was so stoked. And then, I took it in to get developed, I took it to Sammy's, where everybody goes. They called me, and they were like, 'The whole roll is blank.' I was like, 'What? What do you mean the whole roll is blank? How is that possible? I shot an entire roll. Different days, different places. How?' ... The whole roll, all 34 shots, were blank. I was so sad. I was so upset."
The failure only fueled her to figure out how to shoot film and shoot film well. She began taking a film camera with her everywhere she went, and she still keeps one in her car at all times "just 'cause you never know where you're gonna end up. I always keep a roll of film in my purse. I just live like that, I guess. You never know where and who you're gonna be with, and if you're the person with the camera, it's kinda dope."
Kyra remembers some of those first shots, using the fact she had a group of girlfriends who were also models to her advantage and developing a style of "capturing moments versus creating anything," and they are still some of her favorites. But she plans to keep pushing for new favorites. "I have a goal board. Like a vision board, but I write stuff on it. I have all these different goals because now I've progressed my personal career. I still model, but now I've progressed it more into acting and music. But my photography goals are, really, I want to shoot for a magazine. I would like it to be an indie-feeling magazine more than something high fashion. More of a very cool, very natural shoot. All film. And then I also have a dream to go with an artist for a music festival and shoot them at a music festival. Shooting an artist at a music festival, I can't even think of anything better."