Kelly Klein's Reflections
MUSÉE Editor-in-Chief, Andrea Blanch interviewed mom, photographer, and author - Kelly Klein.
Andrea: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Kelly: I live in NYC. I am 56 years old, I’m a photographer and the mother of one son.
I’ve produced and assembled seven books with most recent being Pools: Reflections by Rizzoli.
AB: What brought you to doing a 2nd book on pools?
KK: I did my first book on pools 20 years ago, and I thought it was time to do the sequel specifically looking at contemporary pool design.
AB: How do you go about discovering the images, finding and securing them?
KK: First, I Google every kind of pool you can imagine. Indoor pools, outdoor pools, modern pools, pools in hotels, pools in fields, pools on the beach,
pools in mountains. I did this for a year. And then I would put it in a folder, and write to all the photographers that I’ve worked with for all these years.
Fashion photographers, architectural photographers, paparazzi, lifestyle photographers. Next, I wrote to archives of museums, and photography estates.
I would literally go through all the Christie’s catalogues, and all the Phillips catalogues, and I would just search, search, and search... and this went on for
2-3 years. It all went into a folder, and it was about a year or two before I would start to edit down to 1,000 or more images. And then edit again to my favorite
500. And then I wrote to the favorite 500, saying that I was interested in using their image. I received a variety of answers from, "It’s in low res,"
to "I don’t have it anymore," "I threw it out," "I don’t remember where it is." So then I’m down to my favorite 350. And I asked them to please be generous
and lend their photography. And there’s a lot of unknown photographers in there, there’s a lot of art photographers, a lot of people that were on a trip
with their families, and I found them through Tumblr so they were very pleased to donate pictures. There were a few photographers that wanted money,
and I had to decide: is it worth it? There were a lot of variables that went into choosing the pictures, at the end, but I tried to do this as a charity project,
and I needed everybody be charitable. And then you have to get the images in high res. Which is really hard, because everyone shoots at a different format,
and different kinds of resolutions. Sometimes the images had to be blown-up 24 inches, 13 X 13 so 26 inches by 13 that’s a big format. A lot of times that
couldn’t be done. So I lost a lot of pictures that I really loved, but I had no choice. It’s really a very long process. And then you’re down to your favorite 200.
There are some heart-breaks along the way, but at the end of the day, there are still 180 or 190 very interesting pictures in there. I’ve been looking
at it for 5 years, so it’s hard for me to judge it... but from what I’ve heard so far, people love it.
AB: How did you start your photographic career?
KK: I started as a fashion designer, and at one point in my life I stepped away from that, and started shooting pictures.
AB: How did you segway into photography? What or who influenced you?
KK: I took pictures my whole life. I’ve been shooting for years. I got a phone call from the art director at Mirabella Magazine who asked me to shoot for
their publication. This is how I started doing portraits, and that led into more fashion photography.
AB: Do you have a signature style that people can recognize easily?
KK: I am not sure. I try to keep within what I like, meaning more natural pictures, with a little bit of an edge to it.
Sometime it’s hair and make-up, and other times there are other tricks involved, but since digital came along, my pictures have probably changed.
You can do so much right there on the spot, and it allows you to be a little more creative with the colors or the lighting.
Being able to change things around as you are shooting is something you can’t do with film.
AB: Do you do your own post production, or do you have it done for you?
K: I have a tech.
AB: Do you think you can have a successful fashion shoot, without the support of a team of hair and make-up stylists?
KK: Depends on the kind of story you are asked to shoot. If it’s a white shirt story, and you’re shooting a bunch of young models for Interview magazine,
I think you could just shoot the girls as they are, when they walk into the studio. When they’re 16 years old, they don’t need too much.
But if you’re shooting something a little more high fashion, where the clothes are about the statement,
then I think you need a team of people to push you to make the pictures better than they would have been.
AB: What do you think makes a good fashion photographer?
KK: I think the lighting is very important. I have a fashion background so I understand clothing and the make-up. As I’m shooting, I think about the clothes,
and the body position, and movement to help make those clothes have a great shape. I think about movement also.
But at the end of the day, the light has to be very very good.
AB: Do you have any pet-peeves during shooting?
KK: It takes a lot to irritate me. The girl would have to come in, and tell me she’s going home or something... but that has never happened.
AB: Has your subject matter or style changed over the years in any way?
KK: Since I’ve been shooting digital, my style is different. I am not a trained photographer, so I’m not technical. I’ve learned about it, but I really was insecure,
for a long time, with film. And now I can shoot and see that I like what’s happening, or that I don’t like what’s happening right away, and that really helps me
as a photographer. If I trained for a long time, and worked as an assistant to really talented photographers, I probably wouldn’t feel that way.
But I started later in life as a photographer, so I had to learn the hard way.
AB: I worked with a very good photographer, and it scared me to death every time I did a shoot and
I was waiting for the film to come back, even with Polaroids. But that was part of the excitement.
There was an element of magic waiting to see the results...
AB: What makes for a successful photo shoot?
KK: If I’m happy at the end of the day, and the client seems to be exited, and I’ve got across with what my job was
supposed to communicate, then that’s a successful day.
AB: Is there anything you wish you had done sooner in the business?
KK: No, I have no regrets. I love all the different careers I’ve had. I have a great time designing clothes, I love creating my books,
I love shooting pictures, and now I love being a mom. Being a mom is probably the hardest.
AB: How do you balance your time between photography, producing books, and being a mom?
KK: Well, I’ve put everything, for the last 5 years, on hold. I just did this book pretty much. I shoot pictures. I did 12-15 stories a year
for one person, but I worked on this book while Lucas was in school. And I’m not concentrating on getting more fashion shoots.
AB: Does your success influence your style, or does it hinder it?
KK: I think that my taste level has changed over the years. I’ve worked for Ralph Lauren, and I was a Ralph girl. When I worked for
Calvin, I was a Calvin girl. All I’ve been trying to do my whole life is inspire people. My tastes have changed. I’ve become much
more minimal, much more modern, much more tasteful. My style is probably the same. I don’t worry that if I change my taste,
it’s going to upset somebody. I feel that it expands everyone else’s inspiration.
AB: Who are 3 photographers that you admire, from the past or the present?
KK: Everybody is so different and for one certain type of photography I might really look up to one photographer,
and for another type, another artist.
AB: How do you think that fashion photography has changed in relation to the fashion business?
KK: The most major change I can think of is the digital aspect. And some people might like it, some people might not, for various
reasons. Some people think it has ruined photography, and some people think it has enhanced it. Mert and Marcus do an incredible
amount of digital manipulation, which makes those pictures spectacular. I don’t think you can achieve the same look from film.
But then again Bruce Weber’s pictures are on film and they are just as fantastic. Some works are too manipulated,
which might not appeal to some people’s tastes.
AB: What is something that few people know about you?
KK: I can cook.
AB: What do you like to cook?
KK: Very simple things. Everything grilled, steamed... salads. I have a child and that’s what influenced me to cook.
As a matter of fact, I hadn’t cooked anything, before becoming a mom. I ordered in, went out to eat,
but then I had to figure out what he liked to eat. So, I had to teach myself.
AB: What kind of food do you have on shoots?
KK: On shoots, we usually have sushi.
AB: What words describe you best?
KK: American. Modern. Simple. Relaxed.
AB: What do you wear on shoots?
KK: Jeans, and a t-shirt.
AB: Do you think you’ll do a lot more of commercial photography?
KK: I think I’ll try and stick with it, here and there.
AB: I saw one of your photographs, at an auction. A red cross, with someone on it.
It was so provocative and edgy. I loved it. Have you done more like that?
KK: The stylist I worked with was very edgy, and I loved working with him. We shot for Interview, and when I shoot with Bill Mullen,
it’s really as edgy as it can get... and the model came in like that.
AB: What are the pros and cons of being a fashion photographer today?
KK: I was looking at something we did in the 90s. We had taken a snow machine, and gone to South Carolina, and shot a bunch
of girls in the snow on the beach. It cost a fortune. I don’t see people paying for that anymore.
AB: So, you didn’t have any form of training in photography, but you kept learning as you went along?
KK: I am not technically savvy at all. At all! Even though I have learnt so much from my great assistants,
and I’ve had such great help I still struggle with it sometimes.
AB: 3 favorite images you have created?
K: Oh my Gosh! I don’t really care for any of mine.
AB: 3 favorite images of other photographers?
KK: I think Steven Klein is very talented. I have some portraits that I love of Kate Moss. I have a wide range of images from different
photographers. I buy photographs at auctions that benefit breast cancer, AIDS, and child poverty. As far as my pictures, I don’t sell
them. I give them to benefits or foundations, if they have their own auctions, but I don’t sell my work ever.
AB: Why have you made that decision?
KK: I just would never know what price to put on it. I don’t have a gallery or an agent.
I just file them away, as I do the shoot, and then one day I can hopefully use them.
AB: What advice would you give to young photographers?
KK: I think that education is really important in photography especially its technical side. You have to have a great eye and
understand light… and then, if you have that, then just go get any camera. I mean, I’ve been documenting my days
on Instagram, since I signed up for it.
AB: How do you get your creative juices flowing?
KK: I have an archive of books, or movies that I might refer to. I refer to them a week before the shoot, to prepare myself
for what kind of portrait, fashion pictures, lighting, location. I do a lot of research, before I shoot.
AB: You’re friends with a lot of photographers and artists.
Do you think you could be friendly with anyone whose work you didn’t like?
KK: Absolutely. I don’t choose my friends for their taste level, or their style, or anything like that.
AB: What would you like people to get out of your work when they look at it?
KK: I create these books to inspire people. I recently built a house from scratch, and had it photographed. And I hoped that someone
would be inspired, and would want to build a similar house, or a similar pool. I don’t mind sharing my ideas.
AB: Do you ever feel that you missed something while you were shooting?
KK: There are always cases where you think you should have done it this way, or you should have done it that way. You can hope that
there will be spontaneous moments that you can capture, and they will bring the element to make it a different kind of picture. But at
the end of the day, I don’t usually walk out and say, “Oh Gosh, I really missed that!” rather I say “I did my best!"
AB: Do you think it is okay to break the law for art?
KK: I don’t think so.
AB: Do you have any idea what the next project might be?
KK: Taking care of my son. He takes up all of my time.
AB: Is it better to be single or married?
KK: Doesn’t matter if you’re married, or single, or divorced, but you have to have someone to share your life with,
someone whom you love. And whether you get married or stay together, that’s not important.