From our interview with photographer and natural builder Kelly Brown.
Sandy landscapes in form of giant rocks, thorny plants and pale hills. Serene expressions. Their faces were at times blanketed in a sunny haze, at times obscured by sweet florals, at times dappled in sunlight. One woman laid in the waters, arms outstretched. Another leapt, stripped down nude, into a lake of emerald green. A couple cuddled up to a pair of horses, sending long pats down the crest of the majestic necks. One pup tore through the desert landscape, looking for its next big adventure with a stick its mouth.
These are just some of the many beautiful scenes found in Kelly Brown’s photography.
One of Kelly's many beautiful photography. For more of her work, please visit her portfolio.
“My work reflects a creative life rich in all the things that nourish us from food to flowers, from the moments that mark our history to the ones that make each day sweet,” Kelly explained.
Her craft is characterized by a raw beauty and a true mastery of natural lighting, showcasing the multi-faceted faces of the sun. From dapples to soft glows to stark reflections, her understanding of light is a mark of experience. There is an organic aesthetic that seems effortless in her images.
Kelly’s photography journey started when she received her first camera at the age of fifteen. She had learned the art of developing film then, and its fascination led her to pursue a degree in photojournalism. With the unique combination of photography and storytelling, her studies created a strong foundation for a natural and candid approach.
Kelly with her husband Bryce.
“I never retouch the faces in my photos, and I just like showing people how they naturally are.”
Since graduation, Kelly has cultivated her business to encompass commercial, editorial, lifestyle and wedding work. Her distinct aesthetic permeates the varied work she produces. The lighting of her work ranges from soft to experimental, but it never feels forced or artificial.
Her favourite subjects — wild flowers, lake swims, desert exploration — are closely tied to her way of life.
Kelly splits her time between Victoria in British Columbia and Yucca Valley in California with her husband Bryce and her pup Sunny. The two cities offer opposite living environments. The former consists of island life, characterized by lakes, beaches and close proximity to the water. The latter is defined by dry lands and desert life. In Yucca Valley, Kelly and Bryce reside in homes they have renovated themselves: the Earth House and a remodelled airstream. Both spaces are reflective of Kelly’s aesthetic, decorated by the desert’s distinct shades of browns, sand and terracotta.
“Do the contrasting environments of the island and the desert affect your creative work?” I asked.
“Yes,” Kelly responded. “The desert teaches me to look deeply, be vulnerable and appreciate simple offerings like a wildflower blooming or a roadrunner crossing the path in front of me. The monochromatic colours, subtle textures and vastness evoke a sense of calm which is something I try to achieve in my work.”
“This is contrasted by the rich, powerful and energetic pacific coast which I am also lucky to call home,” she went on to explain, “Vancouver Island brings an energy of collaboration, movement and vitality. These two contrasting environments inspire me in ways that the other one can’t and keep my mind and heart active in appreciation and creation.”
“One of my favourite quotes by the French poet Saint-Exupéry says: If the desert is at first only emptiness and silence, it is because it does not offer itself to one-day lovers.”
To further understand Kelly’s craft, we will delve deeper into her desert habit next. After a stay at her Earth House, we have learnt a bit about natural building, and how essential it is not only for art, design and aesthetic, but also for our earth and the community.
// Extra Note // I reached out to Kelly and Bryce again, to see how they were doing in isolation as the world continue to struggle against the global Covid pandemic.
The initial impact of social isolation was difficult. More than half of her wedding photo shoots (and counting) had been canceled, and like many of us, the loss of job meant a deep financial loss and unwarranted extra time on our hands.
“For the first couple weeks of quarantine, I felt the need to be productive,” Kelly recalled, “I think many of us link productivity to a sense of purpose. It has been a challenge for me to just accept being still, taking my time to decide what I want to refocus on and being gentle with myself with the waves of feelings that this pandemic has brought on.”
“When you are given the gift of time, it feels essential that you use it the best way you can. But I am relearning what the "best way" really means. It doesn't necessarily look like checking things off a to-do list. Some days it means planting our garden, taking a hike or updating my website and other days it means doing absolutely nothing and letting go of the guilt I would usually feel for not getting things done.”
She is currently in her Yucca Valley home, and is thankful for what the natural environment provides. Beautiful landscapes were one of her biggest ally in her own photography, and now have also became her biggest comfort.
“I am grateful to be in the desert, somewhere that already feels like a practice in isolation at times.”
“Having access to wide open spaces is a real luxury right now, as is having the company of my husband, dog and my mother. Luckily, we all live on the same property together. While I know so many are struggling and that life has been completely changed for most of us, I can only hope the collective grief we are feeling will fuel us to reevaluate and reconfigure our lives in a way that nurtures our interconnectedness to both each other and the earth.”
Although much of her client work has been cancelled, Kelly lives each day slowly yet fully, and continues to document both big and small moments in between with her beautiful photography.
Kelly wears our Praxis Jumpsuit against the beautiful monochrome backdrop of her desert home.