Prior to this incident, Kelsh did a personal project on photographing children
in Ireland; the offspring of people who got killed in the "troubles."
He remembers being brave enough to go into bad neighborhoods and knocking on
doors. "I was 19," he says. "People were friendly because
I was young, and Irish people love Americans." When he came home, he got
these images published in a magazine called Camera 35. He says, "The piece
was called something like `Faces of Death.'"
image from Nick Kelsh's latest book, How To Photograph Your
Life. This picture, an example of "How to Photograph a Private
Moment," emphasizes the importance of keeping a distance
from your subjects and waiting for the right moment to snap the
Kelsh interned at National Geographic while in college, but states, "I
didn't actively seek out magazine work like some of my colleagues."
Although he's worked for several newspapers as a photojournalist, he says,
"I'm happy about the way things have played out with my books."
Many of his friends travel "about 275 days out of the year," while
Kelsh's work allows him to stay closer to home and family. In terms of
his work, Kelsh has truly invented himself. "I don't want to be
on the road that much. That's why doing these books has been great--my
subjects are neighbors, friends and relatives."
One of his books features some beautiful nature images with writings by the
late Rachel Carson. Kelsh says that Carson, who wrote about environmental issues
in books such as Silent Spring, "believed that saving nature was the key
to our salvation." He discovered one of her books in a used book store,
and decided he wanted to work on a new edition of her book, The Sense of Wonder.
He tracked down her former editor and publisher, and presented his idea for
the book, which included colorful photos of nature alongside images of children
enjoying the outdoors. He discovered in one of her old letters that, coincidentally,
this had been her vision too: "I accidently did the book that Rachel would
"A Day in the Life of China."
Lightening His Load
In terms of equipment, Kelsh says, "I've owned all kinds of cameras."
But he says that he's really having fun with the lightweight, five-megapixel
Olympus C-5050, which he always carries with him. He enjoys using the custom
mode ("my mode"), and shoots RAW files. "The quality of the
pictures is so sweet, and the camera is so small, it's great to have terrific
technology like this at my fingertips."
At one time, he used to travel with an assistant and "tons" of equipment.
Today, he says, his cache is smaller except for some heavy lighting equipment,
which he carries on a self-made "death cart." Kelsh also shoots
with the Olympus E-20 and uses a camera belt. "I can go out with my camera,
belt and cart, and do some great things." These items make life a lot
easier, he muses. "Fun is a big deal with me. If something isn't
fun, I don't want to do it."
He's also experimented with Piezography, an archival black-and-white ink
technology. By utilizing it, he says, you can create high-quality, "Ansel
Adams-type" prints. His latest printer is an Epson Stylus Photo 1280,
and he plans to buy an Epson Stylus Pro 9600, "to make prints as large
as 4x6 feet."
Kelsh says that he optimizes his photos on the computer as he once did in the
darkroom, but not in an extreme way. "It's just so wonderful to
make a great print and to be able to repeat it."
tearful subject from Kelsh's first book, Naked Babies, which
also contains compelling essays on infants by Anna Quindlen.
Wisdom to Live By
Kelsh says that his philosophy has been greatly shaped by two very influential
photographers. The first was Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt,
who came to speak to Kelsh's college class. "One of my fellow students
asked, `Do you have any advice for young photographers?' `Yes,'
Eisenstaedt replied. `Get out of the car.'"
The second was Elliott Erwitt, who commented, "I studied what other photographers
do and I would do the opposite." Kelsh says, "When I find myself
in a sea of photographers, I always follow this advice."
To see more of Nick Kelsh's work, visit www.kidsbykelsh.com