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Making Pictures Photography Richard Kelly Experience Talking Photography N'at

Talking Photography N’at August 10 2021 7 pm

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What was the last photograph you took?

I am speaking from my perspective. For many photographers, this summer has been a rebirth of visual experiences. The past year I have consumed more images than ever before from books, magazines, websites, and even Instagram, and I have picked up my camera and framed the world in front of me with new vigor. I told my mentor just yesterday that even though I wasn’t compelled to “photograph” the pandemic, I am now motivated to photograph the new world. 

Taking a break in July was an excellent opportunity to reflect on this community that we have created. I appreciate the conversations and friendships that continue to “develop” daily through our shared interest in photography. In addition to the Stand Up Paddleboarding, my family and I visited Clemson for Grace’s first college tour this past month, then spent a week near Kiawah Island, South Carolina, and of course, currently driving with a teenager and her learners permit. 

I am also knee-deep into a new project that I will share more details about in the coming months:

  • A culmination of relationships.
  • A geographic point on the compass.
  • Starting a conversation that our country needs to have.

How about that for a vague outline – I hope I write that down somewhere. 

After the August Talking Photography N’at, we will be moving to the second Wednesday of the Month – as I am teaching two courses this semester at Point Park University, and they are in the evening Tuesday and Thursday.

Over the break, I established a Slack group for us to stay in contact between virtual meetups. Here is the link for an invitation – https://join.slack.com/t/rkellyexpportrait/shared_invite/zt-ejka4g5w-rdWnD3z~lz_Isj7x9iOKKw

I hope you join us and share links and photos and keep the conversation going. 

A few regular contributors to the Talking Photography N’at have been up to some exciting work the past few months.

Kristi Jan Hoover installed her three prints at the Children’s Museum. 

Polly Whitehorn had her exhibit opening at the Beacon Art Shortwave Gallery in Stone Harbor, New Jersey (http://www.beaconart.net/events.html)  with some interesting “twists of lemon.” 

David Robert Farmerie – completed a fascinating Artist Residency in Wilson, North Carolina (https://www.eyesonmainstreetwilson.com/#/).

Lisa Marie Cirincione, who lives in State College, Pennsylvania, is still in Tokyo for the Summer Olympics in her work in NBC Sports Television. She is sharing some of her experiences on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lisac.photography/

And Ralph Musthaler took his street photography to a new neighborhood on a recent visit to New York City. https://www.instagram.com/ralphmusthaler/

Thank you to everyone for keeping the print sharing alive and a worthwhile experience. I have received some beautiful images, and I am preparing for my next round to go out in early September. If you need access to the mailing addresses, drop me a note. rk@richardkelly.com

I hope to see you next Tuesday, August 10th at 7 P.M. EDT as we get back to Talking Photography N’at. Have I ever mentioned that it is FREE! 

See you then. Here is the Zoom Link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84978587017

So show us what the last photograph you took was? 

If you have images you would like to share prepare and send them to rk@richardkelly.com using Google Drive or We Transfer https://wetransfer.com/. We are no longer accepting DropBox links.

Please share this with anyone who you think might be interested in joining us.

The link in the email above, the talkingphotonat.link/zoom, my Linktree in the Instagram bio, and https://www.richardkelly.com/Experiences/Talking-Photography-N’at/1.

See you on August 10th.

Richard Kelly

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Business Curiosity Exposure Making Art Making Pictures Marketing Philosophy Richard Kelly Experience

Thinking Ahead

Last week in two separate conversations, I used the words “thinking ahead.” Conceptually we like to think we do this well, but most of us fail even with our best new ideas. Big thinkers take a small concept that exponentially expands. They gather interest, investors, partners, and collaborators to take that small idea to an extravagant completion. I hear from big thinkers almost every day asking me to help them create imagery. Though, some of them wait too long even after their project is already underway or practically completed.  

These conversations with filmmakers, real estate developers, technology entrepreneurs, and other innovative businesses making transformational changes all have stories that I want to help them tell if they had just thought ahead. They want photographs that they can now use to tell the story of their big idea. But there is no way to re-visualize their process measuring what they have accomplished because no photographs were made with that intention—not thinking ahead what images they will need in the end to tell the story. 

While living in New York City in the early ’90s, I thought I might want to make motion pictures. Not knowing that much about filmmaking, I offered to work on small indie films. I was working with many talented individuals. I learned that one of the many required “assets” film festivals ask for are publicity stills to assist in “promoting” the movies. As a photographer, I was a valuable asset on these indie productions and taught myself how to package these with other materials for festivals. One evening at a wrap party, a young filmmaker approached me. He had heard through a colleague that I created festival packets. And he needed some help with his festival proposal. So we went through my mental checklist – script, application, list of cast and crew, synopsis, check, check, and check he said – still photos? (cue the sound of film breaking in a projector). Ahhh! He said someone did make some snapshots with their camera, but no one was responsible for making those still photos. He asked if I could help. I shook my head and said, look, we could recreate a scene or two if you have access to the location and the actors, but it is not the same. 

I was preparing, before the pandemic, to deliver a “lunch and learn” session about documenting your startup story. I planned to say that good visual storytelling is critical to rising above the startup competition. Thinking ahead for visual stories requires commitment, discipline, and money. Yes, money! A business school leader reminded me that seed money is for the core purpose of startup culture. My reply, without planning for storytelling (READ marketing) images, no one will visualize the value you are building. Indeed, I am sure that some early-stage funders will disagree with me and point to examples of startups that prove themselves without marketing imagery. But in a global conversation of visual media, pictures and videos matter. Without visual images, you are only as good as your best textual metaphors with bullet points on a pitch deck. 

Once in a conversation with a client over a project launch. I told the story of being commissioned by a financial institution to create artwork for their new office. Their ask was for images of the city from their skyscraper point of view – not postcard-style photos but images that reflected their unique worldview. He loved this idea, and then I revealed that often the “process photographs” that I make for long-term projects also end up as artwork on the walls of their company Headquarters. These images can rise above the initial purpose and can be aesthetically beautiful as well. We closed the deal on the spot.

Learning about future-forward projects and the people who put these into action is my favorite part of my storytelling. Thinking ahead to craft a visual story for publicity, fundraising, and memorializing history is what I do. 

If your organization has an emerging story to tell and wants my visual point of view, email me at richard@richardkelly.com.

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Business Making Pictures Marketing Philosophy Photography Richard Kelly Experience Uncategorized

The one about the CEO who bought professional digital cameras for his managers… a parable.

I am not a widget photographer, but I am interested in innovative people and how they make things. For a handful of years, I had been photographing a multinational corporation that made widgets. I had made some pictures for them, and we had been discussing a longer-term project to show their “new and improved process and people for shareholders.” Not that long ago, I would have called these annual report photographs, but now I think of them as “core mission stories” – and by the way – organizations should focus more on these to tell their unique story to stakeholders. 

But I digress. For several years the CEO who was brought in to sell a new corporate perspective to their Wall Street investors about how “an old gritty industrial company” was transforming as a “shiny new technology industry leader” and I discussed using photography and video to show these innovative talents and techniques that the company was implementing. He knew Wall Street had yet to grasp this new point of growth, and I was presenting him an opportunity to reframe the story visually before turning the leadership over to a new team. 

The following year, as he and I stepped aside to make his leadership portrait, he excitedly told me, “you know the concept you pitched for telling the stories of our workers and processes? well, I solved that by buying my plant managers D-SLR’s and instructing them to take pictures.” My photographer’s soul shriveled up and went up to my throat. I was planning to convince him to put this project on the calendar finally. Instead, I was learning that an “everyone with a camera” scenario was replacing my idea. I thought quickly on my feet and rebounded by saying, you know, Mr. CEO, I teach workshops, and I can put together a custom program to teach your managers how to use these cameras. He waved his hand and said these cameras are so sophisticated that they pretty much take the pictures themselves. I finished the session, and my assistant knew I was mentally defeated, and she suggested we stop for lunch to talk about the end of commercial photography as we knew it.

The following year I was a bit surprised they scheduled me to make the annual leadership photographs. Figuring that one of the plant managers would stop by and “snap a picture.” The CEO, I learned, was retiring soon – even though the company didn’t have the positive turnaround he desired. He was ready to move out of the day-to-day operations. As we stepped away to make his final CEO portrait, I asked him how the manager’s photography assignments had worked out? He chuckled and said, “would you believe it if I told you that they have never even taken the cameras out of their boxes.”

Although I wasn’t thrilled that the CEO retiring, the story of the cameras still in their boxes reminded me that I still have value as a visual storyteller. 

Everyone might have a camera with technology that makes taking pictures more accessible and of decent quality. The managers didn’t make the photographs because that is not what they do; they manage manufacturing. They didn’t have the intention. Photographers craft compelling visual stories because that is what we do. 

Richard Kelly is the President of The Richard Kelly Experience, Creating visual stories for mission-focused organizations, framing their unique perspectives with compelling imagery for their stakeholders. 

Categories
Business Making Pictures Marketing Photography Richard Kelly Experience

Use it or lose it

This Pandemic year has been like no other. We are all navigating whatever it means to get back to “normal.” I am not sure I want to go back, but I do know that no one really knows what moving forward will be like either. Over the past fourteen months, I have been on numerous zoom meetings, private phone calls, and text messages with colleagues, clients, business experts, and we agree that moving forward will be different than where we have been. I like it- “the unknown,” which is all opportunity and fewer “that’s always how we have done it.”

One of the upsides to 2020 we tested all of our fears and overcame them, “battle-tested and mother-approved.” Every aspect of our businesses (and life) is being evaluated and reconsidered. Recently I have had several calls from marketing executives in non-profits and medium-sized companies – we talk about how everything, including their mission, is being looked at with fresh eyes. Then the conversation turns to money; many of them face budget reviews, including spending money before their fiscal ends (“use it or lose it”) and planning for next fiscal year’s budget now.

One of their many challenges is how they tell their story and create assets with photographs and videos when employees are working from home. Or when their crucial mission activities occur in spaces that are currently empty. They wonder how they can create messaging about this “new normal” that is yet to be defined? And do that both responsibly and on a budget?

One of the positive outcomes of these conversations is that they are relieved to learn that I know how to translate complex marketing messages into story-driven visual experiences and produce work within a reasonable budget.

If you would like to schedule a conversation about your marketing challenges and how your organization will enter this next phase of this “new normal.” Email or text me (are you on Signal yet?) – everyone else does, so we can chat about visualizing your messages and evaluating short-term communication goals. We can discuss workable budget allocations for creating photography and short-form video storytelling to continue your organization’s mission-driven work.

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Curiosity Family Making Pictures Nostalgia Origin Story Philosophy Richard Kelly Experience

The People Collector

My wife, Jennifer, says I collect people. Through “collecting people,” I have made some great connections and, more importantly, built exciting relationships. In my experience, relationships are why people work with me as a photographer and image strategist. It is the chemistry of connections that builds a continuing trust.
I’ve realized that I am really connecting people beyond collecting people (which I enjoy even more). Introducing so and so to you know who, so that they aren’t just names in a Rolodex on my desk anymore, new relationships built on previous connections lead to something even better. I tell my students that the person who may help you the most in your career maybe someone who you hardly know. I know this because it happens all the time to me.
My grandmother once told me that I always asked people what they did and why as a child. “Hey, who are you, and what do you do?”
I want to add you to my collection, maybe even make your picture. I would really like to know you and what you do and even why?

Lets connect. https://sendfox.com/richardkellyexperience

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Curiosity Making Pictures Origin Story Richard Kelly Experience

Artifacts

I miss random conversations with strangers. With masks, no one seems that approachable. Personal encounters are challenging. Even with people I know.
My wife and I did meet a new couple just before the pandemic; my daughter introduced us. They are new to the city, smart, fun, and socially available. Over this past weekend, we met up with them for drinks overlooking the skyline at sunset. One of the great things about conversations with new friends is asking questions that allow you to see yourself through a new set of eyes. I learned that the “real fruits of my labor” as a photographer were not the photograph, but rather the conversations with the subjects I coveted. The picture was an artifact that helped me to remember that interaction.
My wife, in a variation of this concept, referred to me once as a people collector. I even toyed with the idea as a title for a book and often used it as a hashtag (#Peoplecollector) for the smartphone portraits I capture of people I encounter daily. “My product” is the moment, the engagement, the conversation: the photograph, just the excuse to being there.
One of my interns keeps a running journal of people she meets through our daily interactions, during a walk down the street, waiting for the elevator, or on a photo assignment. Until she started keeping score, I never saw these interactions as my thing. Or maybe I did, perhaps subconsciously these Richard Kelly Experiences, as she calls them, are my fuel, my purpose, my creative accelerant that keeps me on my quest for the next new person to add to the people collection.
The pandemic hits. I have no interactions, no new artifacts. There are no new experiences. I am on a pause. `

Categories
Curiosity Making Pictures Nostalgia Philosophy Photography

The Gateway, part 1

Photography is a gateway to many things; I am not sure how else to say it. No matter when you first pick up a camera, the instinct is there. I joke that my daughter was introduced to the act of photography before she met her parents. Within a few hundred microseconds, I had made photographs as my daughter flew through the air from the doctor’s hands to my wife’s, ready to receive her.

I had decided to make black and white film photographs earlier that day.I liked the idea of having a physical object of that moment. The film receives light particles that leave a mark on the emulsion. With a digital sensor, photographers capture a binary representation of that light particle.

I know it is a little nostalgic to consider that on the negatives and slides in my archive, each piece of film was there when I made the picture. For a brief fraction of time, the shutter opened, and light from that place entered the lens and touched it. Not only was I was present at that exact moment, but the film was there too.

I can’t say for sure why I like my film photographs and have more emotional connections to them than my hundreds of thousands of digital images. It is not because the film images are of a higher quality or render the subject better than digital capture because I can say with certainty that they are not better, but they are different.

It is interesting that when photography enthusiasts, who’s gateway to photography was a digital camera, discover film they see every frame as beautiful. A magical quality draws them in to love look of film. They often confuse that magical feeling with quality.

I remember during a conversation with a professional wedding photographer who had recently discovered medium format film photography and was thrilled at how beautiful every frame was – they weren’t. Because they were using film, they were all the better in their eyes – they weren’t. Photographs captured on film are in and of themselves not always great. I can testify to the hundreds of thousands of poorly executed photographs I made on film. But I do understand emotionally what they were reacting too.

Film photographers experience two truly magical moments different from watching your images download from a silicon chip to another digital device. The universal reason many of us fell in love with photography, and that is observing a black and white latent image turn to a developed image in a tray of Dektol under the glow of an amber safelight. Another is the sensory experience of opening a freshly packed box of 35mm slides and holding them up at a time to a light to see what you captured, like opening a gift on your birthday. Then load them into carousel trays and turn on the projector with the whirring fan and the light projecting the color dyes on the film that was in the camera receiving the light from the space you were in when you pressed a shutter for a fraction of time. No LED Projector no matter how good can replace the brilliant colors from the film emulsion emitting from the screen.

I suppose this doesn’t reveal any of the reasons I like my film photographs better than the digital ones. But I do.