Most days I maintain a prime spot in front of my laptop, keeping tabs on the newsfeed. While daily nuggets usually include new products, brand ambassadors, and ad campaigns, some recent content from revolutionary skate retailer HUF caught my attention.
This Bay Area street-scene contender has been building an empire since its inception in 1992. From its locals-only neighborhood-skate-shop roots, HUF has managed to establish itself as a global brand and one-stop shop for all things urban.
In a move to captivate, HUF tapped urban photographer Brian Kelley to spearhead the creative for its summer 2013 lookbook featuring moving stills. Since my only experience with moving photographs comes from the "Harry Potter" films, I was fortunate to get a few minutes of Kelley's time to learn more about it.
Here’s what he had to say:
The number of years you’ve been shooting?
I started shooting photos in 2003 when I accidentally signed up for a photo class back in high school. I’ve been shooting for a solid 10 years and hope to continue for many more to come.
The number of years it took you to start making money doing what I assume you love?
Making a living doing something you love is nearly everyone’s goal in life, and it’s something I feel very lucky to be able to say I do—I never take it for granted. After moving to NYC in 2006, I worked for several companies, mostly internships. It made for long hours and intense work, to be clear, but all of it paid off when it came time to graduate college. In 2011, after putting the time into a solid year of an unpaid internship, I was offered a position at a studio as a photo assistant. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to keep connecting with good clients, and now I’m over at HUF.
What are your feelings about the emergence and progression of digital? It feels like an equalizer of sorts—everyone can take a good photo now.
My introduction to photography was with black-and-white film, so for me it has always been my first love. But a high percentage of what I produce today is shot with digital, especially in the product work I do. That said, digital is a necessity. And, yes, everyone can—and does—take a good photo. The photography world is flooded right now, which has actually made it a lot harder for many established photographers to hold onto certain clients. There is always someone willing to do the work cheaper or for free, which is a scary thought. Trading quality and experience to save a buck is risky.
How has this affected the opportunities of someone who chooses photography as a career path?
The best advice I can give on this subject is to take pride in what you shoot and make whatever that is the highest quality possible. Don’t settle for just anything to get the job done and out the door; take your time. My first job out of college was very intense and, because of that, it taught me to slow it all down and really get to know my subject. It doesn't matter whether it’s a pair of sneakers or a 6-foot-3 model—figure it out and make it something special.
Your latest project with HUF introduces images that incorporate movement. Is there a name for the process, and how did you go about creating the image?
This latest lookbook for HUF was an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while. The concept took time and planning. I suppose the proper term for the treatment is cinegraph. I’d seen other versions made out of short scenes from films, making an infinite loop. I’ve always loved them and hadn’t yet seen any other companies take the idea to their branding, so I decided to jump on the opportunity to do it with HUF. The process itself is actually somewhat easy; it’s just a matter of figuring out what you want your loop to be and taking care to only have that precise area move. I did the HUF lookbook with Photoshop, but there may be an easier way. I’ve heard about an iPhone app that makes GIFs automatically for you. I hope to see others make cinegraphs and incorporate them into their branding. It’s an awesome little bonus to what might already be great imagery.
In your opinion, what are the key components of a good photograph?
I like visually appealing photographs—I keep it simple.
Who and/or what inspires you?
I’ve been really lucky in that I’m surrounded by a lot of great people, people who on a daily basis inspire me. Inspiration happens throughout my day, from the moment that I link up with my friends to get my morning coffee. We skate, shoot, work, really anything and everything that I happen to be doing can fuel my creativity. So, thank you to all my friends.
What’s next for Brian Kelley?
Personally, it’s important to keep things moving. The future is a constant reminder to keep moving ahead and not sleep on shit. Over the last six months, I’ve been working on a 'zine called Steady with two other very talented photographers and friends, Dan Zvereff and Justin Hogan. Steady was built on the desire to see photography in print. In an age where photography has been so far removed from its original, manual process, it felt important to revisit its roots. We just released our third issue and the fourth is underway. The project has been receiving a lot of positive feedback at this point. I don’t see things slowing down any time soon.