A lover of light and beauty, photographer and spiritual director Staci Lee Kennelly aims to capture hope in her frames. She aims to share this same virtue with her audience and her work is a reflection of that goal. We've been following her work for quite some time and we're glad that we finally had the chance to know her just a little bit better. So if you have time to spare, we invite you to read on and experience the same soothing feeling we get from her photographs.
Hello Staci, and welcome to the Magazine! What do you do? And what got you started with film photography?
I am a Spiritual Director living in Los Angeles. While Spiritual Direction is an ancient vocation, not many people know what we do. My favorite quote describing my work is from Dr. James Finley: "A spiritual director is not a holy person, but a person who sees the holy in others and holds it for them until they see it for themselves."
As far as film photography goes, I am old enough to have only had film cameras while my kids were little. I did transition to digital as it became more affordable. About 12 years ago, a photography project invited people to use a film camera for a year. Each week, they gave out a prompt for inspiration. I dusted off my old Canon N1 and started shooting. The more I fell in love with film, the more I wanted to try shooting with a medium-format camera. I had a Facebook friend send me an ad from a woman selling her whole Mamiya 645 kit for $450. I bought it and never looked back.
What is your favorite thing about it?
I love how it slows me down and has me looking for the shot. There seems to be a practice to film photography. The more it slows me down for each image, the more I seem to slow down a little in life. I also love getting my negatives back and being surprised by the images. Sometimes, my favorite images are ones I forgot I took or those that the film made better.
Why do you choose film for your creative work?
I love that I can take a camera almost everywhere. My husband is also a film photographer and it is nice to have a hobby we both enjoy and understand. I also need something I can never master. I appreciate that every roll teaches me something.
We love the mellow and moody look of your photographs. Was this a particular style you were going for?
When I saw this question, I sent it to a few of my friends so we could have a good giggle. I love that you chose those two words to describe my images. I think I will use them to describe my work for some time. No, I don't know if I was going for mellow and moody—I am just mellow and moody. Photography is a spiritual practice for me, and I hope to slow people down when they see my images.
If you can describe your photography style in five words, what would they be?
Quiet, soft, gentle, and now, mellow and moody
What goes through your mind when you're taking photos?
Usually, it goes from "Wow, look at how the light is hitting this small detail so perfectly. I wonder if I could capture that?" I then meter trying to bring out the exact small detail I am noticing by having my lens as open as much as the light will let me. Then, finally, I hold my breath and shoot.
What do you wish to capture with your photographs?
I am not sure you can capture hope, but I try to. I want my photography to bring some type of peace or hope, or even just a quiet pause. I desire to find the beauty in the mediocre and insignificant.
What inspires you in your work?
Light. There is nothing like it, is there? It can hit weeds just right and make them look like magic.
What would you be doing if you weren't a photographer?
Maybe a painter or a poet. Something that makes me pause with the hope of permitting others to pause and find the beauty in the world. It can be so ugly and cruel out there.
Which do you think matters more—talent or skill?
Gosh, I don't know. I think practice is where it is at. You need to have an eye, but you can narrow and discover your eye by practicing. There is so much about photography that I still don't know or understand, and I hope I keep learning more.
What does a perfect day look like for Staci Lee Kennelly?
It would begin with a long walk in the morning with my family, followed by breakfast burritos. Then an afternoon filled with meditation, naps, and books. And finally, a slow walk in the evening light with a camera in hand.