by Len Lear
A few years ago, a woman who worked in Chestnut Hill had a baby, and almost every day she would take lots of new photos with her cell phone and email them to friends and family members as well as to the most superficial acquaintances like myself, although I had only met her once briefly.
With all due respect, the baby did not look much different from one day to the next or from one photo to the next, but the photos kept coming, like rushing water from a waterfall. I do not know if the mother, who now lives in another part of the country, is still flooding in-boxes with photos of the child, who may be the most photographed child in the world outside of the British royal family and the Kardashians.
And recently I was in a store on the Avenue and got into a conversation with an employee. Somehow we got to talking about vacations, whereupon she whipped out her cell phone and, without any encouragement on my part, started scrolling and asked, “Would you like to see pictures from our vacation?”
Now what do you say to a question like that? “No, I certainly do not want to see pictures of your family lying on a beach or eating breakfast or standing next to a statue.”
Of course I said, “Oh, I would love to see your pictures,” so she proceeded to show me what seemed like 5,000 photos of her family lying on a beach or eating breakfast or standing next to a statue.
So now that almost everyone in creation (except for me and my wife and siblings) has a cell phone and takes zillions of pictures, how has that changed the job of an actual professional photographer, if at all?
“Cell phone cameras and social media have given a voice to people,” replied Kelly Vincent, a Chestnut Hill resident for 17 years and professional photographer. “We now see events, tragedies, inequalities and beauty unfolding in almost real time.
“But people still need skilled photographers and often just want to enjoy an event without worrying about having their hands full with a camera, so there’s still work for professional photographers.”
Vincent, 44, who grew up in Kensington and went to Hallahan High School, La Salle University (writing degree), Minnesota State University (Masters in writing) and University of the Arts (photography coursework), enjoyed taking pictures as a kid but never thought of becoming a professional.
“A few years ago, though, I got a vintage Brownie Hawkeye camera and started shooting with an old roll of film as a hobby. As my interest developed, I got a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) and took some courses to expand my knowledge. Then people liked my work enough to pay me, which is a bonus for something that I just love doing, so I kept going.
“I’ve documented the protests taking place in Philadelphia in response to the 2016 election. I’ve also done birthdays, bat mitzvahs and family portraits besides my own personal creative work. Most recently, I worked with Philadelphia musician Emmett Drueding on a photo for his new single.”
Vincent has won herself a legion of fans. One, Rabiya Bower, insisted that “Kelly is a wonderful photographer! She captures the most genuine candid moments and can coax a smile out of the crankiest child. She always manages to find the moment that really represents the relationships in our family in the most beautiful way.”
Another one, Sharon Glusman Pennock, added, “Kelly’s photography has always captivated me. From the passionate moments she captures in the crowded spaces of protests, vigils and parties to the way she frames and highlights the mundane details of everyday life make each photo a story worth knowing.”
What was the hardest thing Vincent ever had to do?
“This interview. Introspection is a difficult process, and these questions are quite good and deep!”
What was the best advice Vincent ever received?
“The best camera is the one you have with you.”
Which talent that Vincent does not have would she most like to have?
“If I could shoot fire out of my hands like Captain Marvel, it would be really easy to make S’mores.”
What is Vincent’s most impressive characteristic?
“I can leg press 400 pounds.”
If Vincent could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, who would it be?
“I’ve been reading about Anne Lister, whom I discovered through a series called ‘Gentleman Jack.’ Anne lived in England in the early 19th century and was an unapologetic lesbian before that word even existed. She also defied a lot of social conventions as a woman by starting her own business and traveling extensively. She lived her most authentic life. I’d love to sit with her and have a drink and even flirt a little!”
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