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Nick Kelsh: Making Everyday Moments Special:
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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.’”

An 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 shutter.

Inventing Himself
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 have wanted.”

From “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.”

A 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 or www.kelshwilson.com.

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