Eric Kelly Profile Photo

Eric Kelly

San Rafael, CA

WHY I love the directness of antique photography. Today all humans are bred from an early age to grin widely and falsely when a camera is pointed at them, but in the 19th century having your picture taken was a serious matter, sometimes even (to judge from their expressions) an unsettling or distressing one. People didn't avoid grinning just because photographic exposure times were so long, or because their teeth were bad, or because they had a metal clamp on the back of their neck. It was a matter of dignity. Mark Twain, not known for his humorlessness, observed, "A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever." More than that, it seems to me that 19th century people were less emotionally guarded when being photographed. Maybe the technology was still so new that they hadn't yet figured out who they were supposed to be when standing in front of a camera. WHAT My picture sources are either original pre-World War I photographs from my own collection, or public domain images of the same. The elements that grab and inspire me in antique photography are emotional realness; beauty; the unintentionally absurd; and strange and surreal images that highlight what a different world this was from ours. Despite the artistic liberties I take with their images, I hope my work is ultimately respectful of the original subjects. I specifically avoid some conventions of the era that don't sit right with me: post-mortem photos of dead children, and the physically deformed, exploited as freaks. Most photographers whose work I feature, and their subjects, are long ago forgotten, but I also repurpose images from some of the greats of the 19th century, including Julia Margaret Cameron and Matthew Brady. HOW Those wanting the full nuts and bolts of my technique are invited to check out the Techniques & Materials page on my website. I scan the original image at high resolution, process it in Photoshop to remove (or occasionally highlight) technical defects, add other visual elements or effects, and print it either on art paper or on clear film. I mount it on wooden art panels, sometimes over metal leaf, and then coat with epoxy resin for a glass-like finish. The images on my website are the original digital graphics, or scans of the final artwork, and don't always fully capture the full effect of the physical piece.

Eric Kelly loved to draw and make things from an early age. His passion for art led him to spend two years in art school, right after he had finished a sensible college degree. After a run of several intense years of making things, he attended graduate school and launched a sensible career – and his artistic spark dimmed and eventually died.

In 2014, his artist self awoke from a 25 year coma, and discovered the passion was still there. Here's some of the things he has been making since then.

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