Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Nyland.
Kelly, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born in Northern California to a middle-class family of dancers and architects. I studied a bit of photography at local colleges in both Sacramento and San Francisco, but when presented the chance to tour with bands at 19 years old I ditched higher education for the wild adventures of being a musician.
After living in San Francisco and playing music for nearly ten years, I decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue my other true love; photography. Creatively I flourished but working as a freelance photographer in LA is brutal, let me tell you!
But I’ve persisted, and nearly 3.5 years later I am still stoked every day that I can say I’m a professional photographer. Like most photographers I know, the grind is a balance of finding commercial work to support our weirdo, artsy personal projects.
Editorial fashion photography is one of my main passions but also documenting queer culture and often marrying the two is my forté. I constantly find inspiration from nightclubs, my queer community, underground and youth cultures, fantasy, gritty reality and all of the freaks in LA.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Freelance is a constant hustle, and you have to really be a warrior to power through thankless situations. I take my work so personally, and the line between my life and work is blurry at best so the times that I really felt the pain was when personal projects with peers went sour.
There’s a culture in LA that seems to think us photographers want to work for free (*hard eye roll*) either because there are so many of us or because we need “exposure.” You have to learn to pick and choose projects/work very carefully and weigh all of the benefits/risks.
Also because I didn’t pursue the art college route I’ve kinda had to learn things the hard way which includes a lot of YouTube videos and honestly a lot of trying things and failing. But I am a big fan of failure, it’s essential to the growth of an artist. I could also wonder what my career would be like if I wasn’t a queer female but who I am and whatever struggles I’ve had 100% inform my art.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I primarily work in the fashion photography realm but I’ve done so many types of projects/jobs, and I love to apply a fashion eye to whatever I shoot. I’ve shot red carpet, New York Fashion Week, e-commerce, editorial, beauty, events; pretty much everything except for nature haha.
I had the privilege of shooting the first beauty campaign starring a model with Down’s Syndrome, the story went viral and was covered by everyone from People magazine to the Huffington Post.
This year a story I shot called “Femme Militia” was published in the Impression Magazine for their activist issue highlighting female empowerment with several anti-establishment messages. Inclusivity is really important to me and expressing my beliefs in my personal work is crucial.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success as an artist is definitely a strange concept. Most of us are so used to scraping by that when monetary rewards come around it feels like a miracle.
When I land bigger well-paying jobs, I definitely rejoice because it means I get to keep going and it fuels my other projects. But also when I look back at the things I’ve accomplished, it was the times when I persisted or spoke some kind of truth that I feel most proud of.
- Website: kellynyland.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @kelly_nyland