George Kelly

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1961. I have been living in Portland Oregon since 1991.

In 1986, I enrolled in a B&W darkroom course at a boys and girls club. I was living in Paris at that time and through connections I was soon to be working for a management-consulting firm. I waited, and waited for all the bureaucratic B.S. to transpire in order for me to get my working permit, and during this time I went out in the streets taking pictures with Doisneau as my muse. By the time my job opportunity fell through completely, I ceased to care and had already purchased an enlarger and trays, which I set up in the bathroom. From that moment until about two years ago I shot nothing but black and white film, with the occasional roll of color slide film on the side.

Why I started. Two things got me going: first the pictures of Robert Doisneau; second, having a cool piece of machinery that gave me an excuse to explore places I’d never go to otherwise (under bridges, dingy neighborhoods, demolished buildings.) Doisneau’s pictures introduced me to a world of simple folk and well-captured moments all done with a great amount of humor. Walking around town from dawn until dusk with a camera made an adventure out of exploring any place I might be.

My influences have broadened. William Klein, Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand, William Eggelston, and more recently a number of photographers from Portland have joined in the synthesis of my personal outlook. And my personal goal now is to get beyond irony. Irony is probably most easily served with a camera which skillfully and selectively pairs contrasting points of view in one quick glance. But I think there can be beauty and substance without such an explicit message. I read a quote once by Leonard Freed, “The more ambiguous a photograph is, the better. Otherwise it would be propaganda.” That’s as good a guiding principle as any.

I have several bodies of work. My most cherished is my B&W street work (not all of it taken on the street). I’ve been doing it longest and it never gets old. I feel like I’m still developing and refining my style. Next, I enjoy color pinhole photography—something I took up in 2007. And lastly is the kind of photograph I shoot for the Portland Grid Project. These are square format color photographs that I intend to be descriptive of the place I’m visiting.