“Pete Kelly's photographs symbolise the object rather than represent them. They evoke memory through strong associative, sometimes emotional, sometimes surreal imagery, stretching the real toward the fantastic. Surely these images are enhanced by digital means, blurring the line between photograph and painting, but they return to and are informed by roots in the natural." – Robin Rice Gallery, New York.
Pete Kelly finds his inspiration in nature and the landscape. Specifically focusing on, "the reclamation by nature of urban settings", Kelly finds a particularly strong aesthetic and power in the beauty of the urban landscape. "I try to see beauty around me, drawing beauty from ugliness by capturing close up textures of fading paint or graffiti, or by reducing the shape of the subject to silhouette."
Kelly's fascination with photography, and the quality and flexibility of the medium, began at a very early age. Born in England in 1966, and as the son of a military man, Kelly spent most of his childhood growing up in West Germany. After leaving school Kelly enrolled in a photography course with the Royal Air Force Photographic Unit, based in Wildenrath in Germany. Although this initial training lasted only six months, it established a life long passion and dedication to photography.
Already an avid traveller, Pete initially decided to return to the UK, to study Graphic Design and Advertising at Stockport College, before moving to America in 1987. After completing an Internship at Vedros + Assocs, an innovative commercial photography studio in America, he began working as a Photographers Assistant. Working closely with a range of photographers allowed him to intrinsically develop his own refined sense of aesthetic as well as develop and master photographic theory and technique.
Now working as a Fine Art Photographer in his own right and having completed 4 solo shows at Robin Rice Gallery in New York, he utilises the most cutting edge equipment and techniques, ‘painting’ with photography by compositing and layering photographs digitally. This allows him to enhance and develop his concepts, compositions and subject matter without losing his initial attraction to it.
"Sometimes I shoot things in stages concentrating on a specific part of a scene, and layer these pieces together later with imagery, matching perfectly the perspective, focal length, direction of light and camera angle of the former image. Ultimately returning the initial ideas into a seamless photograph and sometimes the image is a single shot, which is enhanced by layering textures to create mood, inspired by artists like Turner, Constable and Giacometti.
All of his work is shot with a digital camera and subsequently processed in Adobe Photoshop. Kelly's work is then printed with ultrachrome pigment inks directly on to archival mediums such as (giclee) watercolour paper, mounted onto board and coated with encaustic wax in limited editions.
Pete specialises in the photo encaustic method, encasing fine art photographs in beeswax and resin. The technique is ancient, having been first seen in Egyptian tombs. However, it is now seeing a resurgence in the US, as it allows artists to mount and frame their own work with a few simple tools and techniques, in tandem with up-cycling wood and bringing awareness to the plight of declining populations of bees. This encaustic wax process can be easily taught and workshops are available at Pete’s studio.