Interview 03 – Sam Kelly

Sam Kelly is an electronic engineer by day, asleep by night, but he’s also a good urban photographer from San Diego & Tijuana. Enjoy the interview!

Instagram…Stories or stills, what do you enjoy more?

Definitely still images. Instagram is still fundamentally a platform for sharing images, and seeing others’ photography is what brought me to Instagram in the first place.

I’m not entirely opposed to Stories, though. Yes, Stories is Facebook wanting to eat Snap Inc’s lunch, and we the users are subject to the results of their business decisions, but it can be an entertaining feature. Some people treat it as a sort of director’s commentary to what they post on their profile, others do very short form video art, I post pictures of my cat.

What attracted you to photography?

Tumblr. I started using it in 2007, I was in school getting my engineering degree, I was into nerdy webcomics, dumb proto-memes, hanging out in IRC channels, listening to metal, and having terrible opinions about things I didn’t understand at the time. Tumblr was a gateway into the visual arts for me. I started shifting my interest from those things I mentioned toward the photography I was discovering, mainly the New Topographics guys, then Eggleston, Bartos, Ruscha, &c, after digging deeper.

This was completely new to me. I’m convinced that I would never have gotten into photography if it weren’t for Tumblr. None of my friends at the time were into photography or had any creative pursuits, there are no artists in my family, I didn’t even know art school was a real thing. All I knew was that I really liked a specific type of landscape photography and I wanted to make similar images.

It’s a sunny day in Tijuana, What do you and your camera like to capture?

Vacant spaces, normally busy places when they’re not, entrances and exits, construction sites, businesses after business hours, architectural afterthoughts.

It also kind of depends on which camera I’m carrying that day. My little point and shoots guide me toward tighter scenes and my Mamiya 7 likes the more spacious places.

Sundays during summer are my favorite days to shoot there, the streets are empty, the days are long, and the light is perfect.

You seem to collect zines about photography, Could you recommend a few of them that you have read in the last month?

Some of my favorite smaller books and zines are, in no particular order:

- Hyper Observation by Sarah Pannell and Nicholas Hawker

- [West] by Carlos Bravo

- Chantier en cours 1/7 by Julie Hascoët and Roméo Julien

- Whale Creek is Flooding by Caiti Borruso

- Plain Sight by Lark Foord

- The Territories by Sarah Pannell

- Noice Mag (keeps getting better)

- Subjectively Objective (is consistently great)

- 31mm vol. 1 (it’s really big but still a zine, I guess)

I try to support people who self-publish zines or independent books whenever I can but since I am not in any academic or art school circles, I’m out of the loop on what happens in that space for the most part. Most of the smaller books and zines that I get, I find through the artists’ own social media, or a couple of blogs that post about independent work.

It’s 2018, what do you think you would be seeing through your camera’s lens?

I really want to see more of California and the southwest in general. I know this region has been photographed to death but I want to take advantage of the fact that I live here, see it with my own eyes, and make my own images.

I would also like to start doing portraits. I’m extremely anxious and awkward around new people, so portraits are a big challenge. Originally, my photos didn’t include people because I just didn’t want to interact with anybody, then that kind of turned into my thing. Some of my favorite books are Sternfeld’s Stranger Passing, Bryan Schutmaat’s Greys the Mountain Sends, and Alec Soth’s Dog Days Bogotá, all of which include some incredible portraits. Those portraits are just inspiration right now, like those first Stephen Shore landscapes I found on Tumblr ten years ago. I hope to act on that inspiration again and see what happens.

All images © Sam Kelly, for more please visit his Instagram or Tumblr

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