PHOTOGRAPHER SPOTLIGHT: Kelly Koller
THE PHOTOGRAPHER SPOTLIGHT IS A RECURRING FEATURE ON THE DFP EDUCATION BLOG, WHERE WE CHAT WITH A MEMBER OF THE DOCUMENTARY FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHERS COMMUNITY SO WE CAN GET TO KNOW THEM BETTER.
AS WE CONTINUE ON WITH INTRODUCING OUR DFP COMMUNITY MODERATOR TEAM, TODAY WE GET TO LEARN MORE ABOUT KELLY KOLLER FROM ARIZONA. KELLY IS AN INCREDIBLY TALENTED, AWARD-WINNING PHOTOGRAPHER, A KICK ASS MOTHER & INSPIRATION TO SO MANY IN THE INDUSTRY.
LET’S JUMP IN….
Tell us about yourself! Give us an uninhibited, short and snappy bio in 10 sentences or less:
At 42 years old I am finally discovering who I am and who I want to be. I have worn many hats; junior high teacher, entrepreneur, photographer, wife, but my favorite is mom. I am a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ+ community as I fight for my eight year old gay, gender queer son's right to wear a skirt without ridicule, grow his hair without question, and feel safe in his community. I pay my bills with wedding photography and fill my soul with documentary photography, a passion only recently discovered five years ago. I hope that through my work the world can put their differences aside and learn compassion and acceptance.
Do you photograph anything besides documentary work? If so, how do you balance that?
Yes, I started in corporate and commercial photography and then moved into weddings. I mainly shoot weddings and documentary now. I will do the occasional family portrait session, maternity, senior, etc. depending on how bad I need the money. Hahaha! I don’t believe in balance. Not anymore. For a long time I tried to find the ever-elusive rainbow unicorn the perfect pinterest mommies call “BALANCE”. And when I was on that quest I gained weight and basically went crazy. It was when I learned to let it go, believe that it might exist for a chosen few but didn’t for myself, that I started to become happy again. I have recently learned to be a lot pickier on the shoots that I take. I only take about 20 weddings a year and some corporate/commercial shoots still, plus a handful of documentary. But my family and my happiness now take precedence over shooting everything that comes my way and trying to “balance” that.
Is there any projects you are currently working on? Tell us about them.
Super Karson Project: YES! I have forever been working on documenting life with my sons, particularly Super Karson, a gay non-binary (gender queer, gender non conforming, whatever you want to call it) 8 year old. He is a dancer and a performer and we live in a very conservative state in America. His school is insanely conservative and navigating this world and community with a boy in a dress has been filled with lots of…lessons. I started photographing him to help myself understand his world better and it has translated into helping others understand the LGBTQ+ community and namely the lives of non-binary children much better.
B You Project: I am also now reaching out and documenting other children like Karson that know who they are at such a young age. So if you know of any child that is gay and/or non binary, gender queer, please send them my way!!!
The Virginia Project: I also have a project where I document mother’s who have had or currently have breast cancer. I give them a free Day In The Life Session. I started this because my grandmother (Virginia) had breast cancer and I wanted to do something to give back to these mothers.
What do you struggle with and how do you overcome those struggles?
I struggle with the idea of perfection. Not actually being perfect but the whole idea that I am supposed to be all of these perfect things. Be the perfect mom, photographer, wife, friend, teacher, etc. It is a constant battle for me. But I try to overcome it by learning how to let things go and stop giving so many fucks. This also applies to the one below.
I struggle with mom guilt. All Of The Freaking Time. When I overcome this one I will let you know.
I struggle with blurry images. I have a neurological disorder called Essential Tremors that makes me shake. Learning how to balance my camera on super shaky days and really watch my shutter speed is essential. Thank the lord for Image Stabilization!!!
If you could give other photographers one piece of advice, what would it be?
Learn how to LOVE critique and not take it personally. Separate who you are from the photo you took. And learn how to let an image you might’ve worked really hard to make go if it just isn’t good enough. :)
Kelly, you are simply amazing! Thank you for all of the work you do and for sharing a bit about yourself with us.
And as usual, for our readers, meet us back in the Facebook group and join the discussion where you can ask Kelly more questions.
Follow Kelly’s work: