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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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ASMP Business Curiosity Origin Story Richard Kelly Experience

Always be Reinventing

Plotting my career in the early ’80s, I never imagined my photography career today. Photography industry insider Stephen Mayes describes my current lifestyle as having a “portfolio career,” one that includes multiple income streams from various services over a range of industry sectors. What my mother calls having “a lot of irons in different fires.” Although not what I envisioned, my portfolio career is right for me.

My single most valuable character trait is my curiosity; it has fueled all aspects of my creative life and continues to lead me to new opportunities for creative expression and commercial exploitation.

Just the other day, a longtime client and friend from my New York City days introduced me as one of the most interesting people she knows. She mentioned that I was someone who is always reinventing his work and life.

I learned in that conversation that all my work has a common core, which is storytelling. In essence, I like to learn, I want to experience things, and then I share my enthusiasm. My activities vary from day to day. I read, I write; I make pictures, I do interviews, I capture video, I splice images together, I teach a class, I consult with a client, maybe moderate a panel discussion, watch a classic film with my teenage daughter, I push a few buttons, just another day in my life.

A few years ago, I learned I needed to rethink my business. This process included a fair amount of self-evaluation. Reworking my brand – the promise to my clients. To some degree, I need to rephrase how I described myself to others—ultimately changing the perception of what I am selling. A colleague last evening over dinner said you are no longer a “photographer,” sure you take photographs. Still, you bring more to the marketing and board room – you build a vision and a strategy a visual experience for organizations. 

I continue to fuel my insatiable curiosity. I learn something new every day. I have tons of new experiences and stories to share. Best of all I get to illustrate them all with pictures – some moving and some still. I live in a state of ‘always be reinventing.’

Updated and adapted from The ASMP Strictly Business Blog , June 25, 2015

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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. `

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ASMP Making Art Origin Story Photography

Shoot Your Way Through It.

The Zen and the Art of Making Pictures.

Written initially (although I tweaked it a bit) for the ASMP Strictly Business Blog in December 2015, as I work my way through the global pandemic, I find that this blog post captures some of what I am doing right now, today to work through the stress and turbulence of 2020.

By Richard Kelly December 11, 2015 Strictly Business Blog

I’m a photographer. I “frame” my world. But sometimes I can’t see anything. Sometimes it is something outside my world that blocks my view; most often, it is inside my head. Whatever the cause, the prescription is the same; I have to shoot my way through it.

I credit Chicago photographer Jim Krantz for the phrase that is now my go-to solution. It describes the action I have taken for most of my life when self-doubt, insecurity, low self-confidence, fear, or plain-old “I just don’t know what to do” blues hit me. Whatever the reason – whatever the why – the only way out is to pick up a camera and frame my world.

For some reason, I find self-imposed limitations help. This is mostly true when I am scratching what could be an idea or working my way through a project. I select one lens, one camera – I limit myself to a few choices. By boxing myself in, I give myself boundaries that allow me to feel safe to explore.

Sometimes, I walk with a camera, not always to create a new project but to allow myself the space to think more clearly. The walking and looking, especially in a place I haven’t walked in before, will enable me to see what will connect the dots.

Driving can also help me break through a block. I find that it is best to drive without purpose. Bicycling is good, too. I especially like to bicycle in places where I don’t typically walk or drive my car. 

I remember one bike ride in the outer banks one, particularly bountiful summer. The light was perfect. I was using all of my senses for ideation.

I took a walk in Philadelphia a few years ago, exploring the city with my camera, “following the light” with no particular subject in mind. I took some beautiful pictures. I remember using a Nikon F2A with a 58mm lens; that detail’s not essential, although I remember it. I’d love to show you the photographs – they were spectacular – but I can’t. I somehow forgot to load the film that day. A rare occurrence, but I was so used to shooting with my digital camera that I simply forgot to check the film. It didn’t matter, though. It was that walk and the act of shooting through it that helped me work out the project I was working through in my mind.

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Business Curiosity Family Origin Story Photography

My New Next Thing

I am a photographer, have been my entire life. That may be an overstatement, but roaming the Ellwood City Public Library at age ten searching for something new to read, stumbling upon the photography books on the shelves was not overstated; Photography was what I needed to discover that day.
As a teenager, I continued to make both art and music. Still, photography offered me a perfect balance of technology with the camera and what I could capture with that little light grabbing machine.
“Photography is for rich people,” my father would tell me. He was a working-class steelworker, high school educated but never a book guy. Later I realized he had an innate sense to visualize entire mechanical processes in his mind’s eye, essentially seeing a process like an x-ray. I don’t think he ever understood his gift. But that visual balance he passed to me. And his passion for tools and processes. Photography is the perfect expression for a young boy who loves tools, techniques and learning how things work. My curiosity has served me well in my pursuit of photography.
My parents insisted that they would not buy me a 35mm camera; they did buy me for my 11th birthday a Kodak 110 Instamatic, not precisely what I was hoping for as a future photographer.
I wanted to make pictures like W. Eugene Smith, not family photos at my sisters’ birthday party. I guess I was entrepreneurial at the outset. Even before this time, I sold gardening seeds, magazines, and rocks even before the pet rock craze. I had a paper route for the News Tribune – still have the road slag in my knee when I had a tumble with my heavy newspaper delivery bag.
Those dollars and cents allowed me to enter the Caputo’s Department store to buy my first camera. One hundred fifty dollars might buy you a Minolta 202 with a 50 mm 1.8 lens, but it won’t buy much 35mm film even in 1979, let alone the processing. Although a bit skeptical, my father encouraged me to do my first professional assignment, the grand opening of the new Big Beaver Municipal building; my father was vice president of the council.
Off I went with my camera and some black and white film to document the new building and celebrate it. I still remember these men and women looking to me as professional photographers to make them and their buildings look good. I even recall the new carpet smell that day.
It was the beginning of many assignments to offset the film I needed to learn photography. My father was impressed with my commitment, offered to buy me an enlarger, and build a darkroom in the basement off from our laundry room.
Making money and making photographs is a complicated formula for a simple equation for me. I couldn’t have one without the other. Forty years later, I am still working on that equalizing that equation. However, the ever-changing world values these two factors differently. In the year 2020, I am evaluating my “new next thing” to see how I can keep my simple equation in balance.