About Kelly and her CameraThis is so much more than a job for me. I absolutely love capturing memories from gatherings of happy people
About Kelly and her Camera
Our weather may feel trapping at times and be dicey at best, but looking around Chicagoland, our neighborhood, and our community, I see so many who respond by embracing hospitality. It doesn’t matter the size of the house or the simplicity of the gathering. We invite family and friends into our homes and into our lives; it is what we do to stay connected. We celebrate birthdays, graduations, reunions, showers, anniversaries, teams, achievements, traditions, fund-raisers, and a myriad of holidays. We support each other in happiness but also in grief: we eat, drink, chat, play games, tell stories, laugh, and we heal… Together. It is remarkably beautiful.
The world inevitably changes, sometimes more quickly than we want, and this season is so worth remembering.
Even Especially in it’s imperfection, it should be cherished as we move into a new season. I sincerely love casual events, whole-hearted photography, and all kinds of people. My passion is to take unique, sincere, and genuine pictures of extended family connecting. Beyond that, I absolutely love putting those pictures into collages and organizing them into archival photo-books. It immortalizes the best moments of these times, allowing the memories and stories to be recalled, preserved, and shared.
Interested in reading the extended version of how this all started?
Admittedly, I have some strengths. I’m organized and frugal (not sure my kids see this as a strength). I can quickly make dinner out of nothing (not quite loaves & fishes but even I’m often surprised). I’m a beast at eradicating lice without chemicals. Not to mention that I am routinely warm, transparent, and authentic. I tend to be naturally adept and curious about a variety of things but my memory is TERRIBLE. I have so many ideas swirling around in my head that I tend to forget both the trivial and the vital. I hate forgetting, it makes me anxious, it makes me feel like a rotten friend… and so I’ve learned to adapt:
I will be the most highly functioning person with Alzheimer’s EVER.
I prepare detailed day-timers, organized spreadsheets, family calendars, and 7 Habits worthy lists; I go into a minor panic because I’m sure something terribly important has gone missing and my husband always calmly says, “Honey… why don’t you take one more look where it belongs.” And sure enough it is there, as if my own tiny little house-elf (aptly named Marie) found it and put it away for me.
This need and desire to remember spawned my love of photography (and writing). I would sit for hours with the grainy albums from the 70s that my mom had put together. Just looking at the pictures made me remember the feelings and the events that might have otherwise left me.
As background, you must know, that my mom takes pictures of everything. This woman has NO boundaries (in photography, the rest of her life actually has very structured scruples). She takes pictures of celebrations, birthdays, vacations, day to day, and nearly every meal… and surgeries, funerals, interventions, and heartbreak. While she is taking these pictures, I tend to roll my eyes but… they are BEAUTIFUL. She took the first picture of me and my now husband WAY before we were a thing. She takes pictures of people chatting or the apron clad in a panic while pulling burning rolls out of the oven… and then I would do the same… and so would aunts and cousins and we all compare perspectives later, cherishing every angle and every alternate view of our shared but unique experiences. Every photograph comes with a story and is precious.
Documenting life was so comfortable to me that it seemed natural to work for the yearbook and newspaper through college. Years later when my kids entered elementary school, we discovered that there was no yearbook! It had fallen into a lost and volunteer-less category. I couldn’t believe that there was a middle school yearbook (when kids were awkward and likely to remember – or want to forget) but NOT an elementary yearbook when the kids are adorable and happy… and a stage of life that they will never remember.
Coincidentally, my neighbor is a layout designer and had the same calling. Together we revived the elementary school yearbook and for 8 years, I took the most adorable pictures of kids that you could imagine. I was able to go into recess, the lunch room, the library, field day, assemblies, intermurals, running club, and sewing club. I even went to class parties and experiments and EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL event… start to finish. All while working part-time from home. I loved my volunteer work for the elementary school yearbook. I loved how excited the kids were when they saw me walk into a room (I was like a minor suburban celebrity to the 10 and under—especially with a rhyming name) and how excited on the last day to get their own copy. I love how my own kids regularly pull-out their yearbooks.
And then elementary school was over. My kids grew up and were off to middle school where they make their own yearbook (and wouldn’t want their mom hanging around anyway). At first, I was frankly relieved for the break; I would routinely breathe a deep sigh of reprieve because that volunteer position had been a labor of love that took so much of my heart, time, and energy… but it wasn’t long until I felt this huge void. I would see adorable kids being kids and feel a nearly uncontrollable urge to take their picture. I would go for walks at sunset in forest preserves, just hoping that some family would be taking a selfie and I could offer to take their picture for them (and then proceed to imagine that the picture was forever immortalized because I captured them so well, not to mention the lighting and framing and leading lines — that they used it as their Christmas Card and hung it on their wall as a canvas)…
Basically, the need to be creative and capture beauty was trapped inside me and begging to be free… and so the churning began…
But the churning shifted gears quickly when our family entered a season of deep heartbreak. My 60 year old healthy dad died from a painful blood and bone cancer that took him like a freight train… while my heart was soft and fragile, our close little Elmhurst community suffered unprecedented, unreal, shocking, and shattering heartbreak. We had 8 children, 2 moms with school age kids, and a college age girl, all die in the course of a year, some long and inescapable while others without warning. It continued to circle around me: a cousin’s husband die young, multiple grandparents, a friend’s teen son take his own life, and many many heart-wrenching cases of friends fighting life-altering battles with disease and barely surviving unwanted change.
Times like these make one pause and reassess. Those photographs were my escape, solace, and comfort. I spent hours going through thousands of digital files (with help of facial recognition software) to find the eyes (and heart) of people I loved. I like the wall worthy ones where we happily and deliberately coordinate, but I’m especially grateful for the natural candid “real” pictures, especially at parties… A reminder of that sweet connection that can feel like it is slipping away. Those pictures taken for fun became my life-raft.
And then I knew what I needed to do. I thought: What if there are people and families and friends who don’t have multiple obsessive photographers?! What if these memories really are lost forever to them!? But I love taking pictures of people interacting! I am good at finding beauty and light in all people! I love parties! I NEED to take pictures of real life!
So that is my vision for Kelcam (street slang for Kelly and her Camera): to come to your birthday, graduation, celebration, reunion, gathering, family tradition, or even walk — in your own home or in a park or at a private location and take group pictures, pictures posed and unposed of people just being themselves. To find the beautiful connection that is specific to your family and friends and help retain just a glimpse of that moment because inevitably (for better or worse) life and people and the world change.
I have decades of experience capturing people in their best light… and doing so makes me tingly, nervous, excited, and fulfilled… it is something you can absolutely do yourself… but if it isn’t your thing or if you want to actually be present and engaged at your own party… I’d love to come to your casual event and fill in as your memory keeper.