Kelly is a commercial photographer with an insanely beautiful studio located in the West Loop. Seriously, if you’re into food photography or photography in general, her studio and props are unreal. It’s not just the physical space that is so unique, though. Her studio is an extension of who she is – warm, welcoming and one of a kind.
She was always inspired by photography and started shooting photos as a hobby in high school. Kelly studied photography in college, but only in the sense of fine arts and self expression. Years later, she was working in retail with two children, who she shot photos of frequently. It wasn’t until her friend asked her if she could pay her to take photos of her child that Kelly started heavily invested in photography. She decided to purchase a camera and a computer and started from scratch teaching herself digital photography. Through a lot of trial and error and determination, she broke into the industry. Networking, participating in portfolio reviews and just being open to asking a lot of questions helped her immensely.
I could sit and talk to Kelly all day about being a woman in photography and what it’s like to capture the sensual aspect of food photography. Say what you will, but I think women have a special skill and excel at this. There’s something very intimate about it.
I deeply admire the person that she is and what she stands for. Each photoshoot isn’t just a transaction, it’s about building a relationship. She’s taken her studio and made it a space that inspires anyone that steps into it to be supported, to thrive and that encourages people to be their best selves.
- How did you first get into photography? What was the path that led you to focus primarily on commercial/food photography?: I spent a lot of time learning, listening, observing, and internalizing whatever I could, from whomever I could. And I focused a whole lot of energy on just being kind. I remember reading a quote from Thayer Alison Gowdy about how she got her start in the industry, and she stressed the importance of just being nice. It seems such a simple thing, but it matters. Food became a subject of great import in the early stages of my career. I’ve always had strong feelings about food, and how food controls our society. It has enormous environmental & political impact. It plays a hugely important role in the social dynamics of any community, and it can shape how we engage with ourselves on a daily basis. I wanted to explore the beauty of flavor, and also try to do my part to reclaim the emotional space that food has come to occupy within our culture. I wanted to tell stories of both health and indulgence in a way that felt respectful of the very purpose of food – to nourish and to satisfy.
- Biggest influences or inspirations for doing what you do?: I suppose I’m a bit different from other photographers when it comes to inspiration. I am not steeped in the world of commercial photography as much as I should perhaps be. Nor am I incredibly well versed in modern and contemporary artists that are creating the trends and visual direction that will lead the future of the creative world. I do love to learn and explore in that realm, and I’m always interested in hearing who is inspiring other people, but that’s not where my deep passions lie. I am most inspired by the simple and often inane beauty that I find in my more immediate world. I am inspired by relationships. I’m inspired by natural phenomenon. I am inspired by the way that people think. I’m inspired by my children, and what inspires them.
- What’s your vision/goal for yourself as a photographer?: The future vision for my business is to create a space and a production house that is well known not just for its work, but for its experience. I want to create a studio that is, at its core, a safe space where everyone – whether a part of production, or a part of the client team – feel a sense of autonomy, validation, acceptance, and support. I want to create work that is so heavily steeped in collaboration and group creation that everyone who plays a part feels a sense of ownership over what is being made. I want to build something that can offer a platform for mentorship and learning. Where I can help to define and sculpt the future of the photo industry. Where the playing field looks far different from what it has in the past, and includes the input of a whole host of minds. I want to do whatever I can to make sure the next generation of studios has a voice that is as broad and representative as the people who are consuming our images.
- What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in being a full time photographer?: Don’t be afraid to do things differently. Work hard. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability. Work hard. Be humble. Be gracious. Be kind. And work as hard as you possibly can, without letting work get in the way of your life.
- Advice to other people that are trying to find their passion or they already have their passion and how to pursue it?: I wish I had words to make the path easier, or to create shortcuts. I don’t know any secrets that will ensure success. From what I can tell, there is no straight line or sure fire formula. I often think it is the struggle and the fight and the messy road are what make the outcome even possible. Outlook matters, and positivity matter, and optimism matters.