Best of Blogs – Issue 5 ~ Steep Street Photography
Screen printing, custom designs, image overlay, graphical collage effects – these are all ideas one wouldn’t usually place alongside wedding photography. But Kelty of Steep Street Photography, based in the eclectic and creative Portland, Oregon, is seriously bucking the trend and doing her own thing. As a child, Kelty chose to spend her time obsessively designing, creating and crafting – it’s a very lucky person who is able to bring their childhood hobby into adulthood and to make a career of it. She explains
“I grew up with dirty feet, knotty hair and an art project going full steam ahead. And as much as I enjoyed hocking my creations to my friends, family and neighbours, it wasn´t the loose change or the Haribo candy it bought that caused me to leap out of bed every morning and stay up till the wee hours of the night, obsessively beading dangly earrings anchored by rubber eyeballs or mini schnauzers, gluing moss into perfect shapes for a diorama scene or stapling binding after binding for my next illustrated novel. Come to think of it, the most fun I´ve ever had, back then or since, has been making things and a large part of that happiness has been sharing those things with others. I´m not sure how many people in my life still cherish (or even possess, for that matter) a Nature Stick, a water-colour portrait, a persuasive-bordering-on-pushy brochure or a rainbow-braided bff bracelet, for example... but making whatever it was with them in mind was basically my purpose in life back then.”
Skip forward 20 years to the present day and her quickly emerging successful career as a web designer, artist and wedding photographer is a reality. Kelty is certainly what one might call an experimental and spontaneous photographer and artist. She chooses never to settle for the easy option or to follow the popular wedding crowd. She is always pushing herself to create art that reflects her client’s personalities and ideas, and to generate small seedlings of imagination into a reality. “My inspiration comes from the couple I’m working with. It really depends on what the couple likes. The style of Hannah and Alex wedding images came out sort of goofy spy/comic book inspired because that's what they love. I know they like bright colours and popping shapes. I'm inspired a lot by the couple's personal style, and try my best to translate and reflect that into the work.”
From the outset, Kelty chooses to let the client and the environment determine the shots. Posed ‘smiling at the camera’ shots are a big no no, pushed to the side in favour of more naturalistic, spontaneous and organic imagery. “I like a blend of far away shots to let the environment speak for the couple, mixed with up close, personal moments” she told me.
What intrigues and ultimately excites me the most about Kelty’s work however is her post-production techniques. I have never seen anything like it. One of my favourite examples is the wedding of her sister Hannah to Alex. The experimental aspect of both the wedding itself, the photography and the post production all came together to tell a story that is exciting, eclectic and perfectly personal to the couple. “I love when my clients are open to mixing their photos with other elements, collaging a bit and putting a new spin on what could be an average photo.” Kelty told me. “Hannah and Alex needed 8 cd covers made to use as favours for their guests and let me do whatever I wanted with the photos of them to create 8 little worlds for them to live in. I created the collages in Photoshop using photos of the couple, other photos I've taken, torn out magazine pages, scanned textures and other elements. The covers came out wonderfully and were also printed large and hung as art in their home!” The style is one you may already be familiar with. You have probably seen similar ideas being used in magazines or in advertising…but wedding photography? The idea is in actual fact a simple one; it’s the execution, the situation and the subjects that make it so exciting. “It’s simply digital collage. I layer photos and scanned textures in a Photoshop document and then print it flat. It's hard to hand collage something like that, but Photoshop allows me to collage much richer designs because I can make some layers more prominent and solid, and other more transparent and layered. I think this is what gives the dimension, richness, imagination and energy to the collages”
Kelty admits to not being the most effective blogger when she first began. It is hardly surprising when she was so busy being crazy-creative in her work. With a life full of photography, editing, web designing and other art projects, who would also have time to be obsessed with blogs? However luckily for me, her sister Hannah submitted some of her work to Rock n Roll Bride last April and so my obsession with her photography and style began. I believe I actually even blogged about my ‘girl crush’ on her a while ago!
The amazing thing about blogging, really unlike any other media is the snowball effect it can generate, almost immediately. Once Hannah had submitted her sister’s work to both myself and other bloggers, it not only started popping up all over blog land, but people who saw her work on the professional wedding blogs similarly wanted a slice of the action and began sharing it too. Her experimental ideas have literally created a wave that has rippled its way through the blogosphere in the last year. After seeing Rock n Roll Bride and other blogs, a new outlet for her work began to emerge. “I had just begun blogging and discovering the wedding blogs like yours.” She told me “Other photographers and fans have given me a real purpose in my blogging. It feels amazing having such talented people out there who are willing to share, guide, and inspire me.” After the discovery of blogs, she’s never gone back “I like blogging because it makes me feel more connected to my friends and clients. Knowing I have a forum to post my work to inspires me to improve every time and the feedback that I get from friends and viewers is priceless. Blogging has helped my business more than any choice I've made so far. It has connected me to hundreds of like-minded creative types with lots to share and I couldn't be more grateful for the exposure. I think wedding blogs are getting cooler and cooler. I especially like blogs like Rock n Roll Bride who post unusual weddings, DIY elements and images of people. They're a treasure trove of information and inspiration that I'm sure helps hundreds of brides plan something personal and different. I've also noticed that TONS of married or single people are fans, which proves that it has a universal appeal in its artistic side. People of any age, marital status, location or job can apply the photos, tips and stories to their own life, which is totally rad.”