Let's Talk About Art: Richard Kelly

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This is a biweekly series about art and artists in the region. Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts serves the community through arts education, exhibitions and artist resources.

Young people love snapping photos. Many ask what it takes to become a professional photographer.

We spoke with Richard Kelly, president of the American Society of Media Photographers, who is one of the most successful photographers in Pittsburgh today. He lectures around the country on issues facing professional photographers in the digital age.

Born in New Castle, Lawrence County, he says he discovered documentary photography from books and magazines at his local library. He was so inspired he began mowing yards and delivering newspapers to save up for his first 35mm film camera.

Mr. Kelly worked hard to develop his creative and technical skills. He eventually got jobs assisting professional fashion and portrait photographers. He gained hands-on experience going on location for photo shoots, including Miami and New York City. Slowly he carved out his own niche in the industry.

When he relocated to Pittsburgh in 1992, one of his first clients was "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." By 2002 he was the director of photography for WQED, which included the glossy, photo-heavy Pittsburgh magazine.

"Pittsburgh has great photographic resources from the museums and galleries to the artists' communities around us," he says.

Mr. Kelly began teaching at Pittsburgh Filmmakers in 2005 and will have a significant role in its new Photography Intensive program, which begins in fall 2014.

His advice to aspiring photographers is to hone creative and technical skills but also be aware of skills that can help you stand out from the crowd and better market yourself. "The better you can write, communicate and speak in public, the better your chances of surviving."

And don't be afraid to take risks. "I can teach much more in a failed moment then in a successful one," he says. "I often will encourage students to keep pushing their work until it hurts. Most of the growth as an artist occurs when you take risks beyond your comfort zone."

See examples of Mr. Kelly's photographs at www.richardkelly.com.

Find class information at http://pfm.pittsburgharts.org/education/pfm/class-schedules.

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