This is a weekly series where we feature our incredibly talented Adolescent members and their work! Sign up here to join the Adolescent Membership and be part of the @ family!
Hey, Adolescent readers! This week, we want to introduce you to none other than Callie Keels—a killer photographer from Austin, Texas. After living overseas in Tokyo and getting inspired to work in photography, Callie relocated to NYC and began shooting predominantly with women. For our Member Crush, we talked to her about COVID, her creative process, and why it’s so intimidating being a photographer in New York City.
Adolescent Content: Tell us a little bit about yourself! Where are you from? How old are you? How are you spending your time these days?
Callie Keels: I’m a film photographer and screenwriter from the suburbs of Texas, but I’ve been lucky enough to have lived in a few different countries from France to Japan. My parents are both storytellers: my mother writes novels and my dad works in television. They both found these passions later in life, which has inspired me to not look at my age as a marker when I’m pursuing what I love. I get my passion for storytelling from them. With regards to my photography style, I pull inspiration from each place I’ve lived as well as film and television shows I love. Visually, I love everything from the abandoned small towns of the Texas desert to the neon lights of Tokyo at night.
Adolescent: How has 2020 changed your work and style?
Callie: I think something I struggle with is hope for the future and contentment with where I am at. After I graduated from college, I moved to Tokyo for two years and worked in a field different from what I studied (filmmaking) and wanted to pursue. That time was healing and filled with personal growth and creative discovery, but when I returned to America I felt professionally behind my friends and so I struggled to focus and accept where I was. Moving to New York added to this anxiety, but once COVID hit, I was forced to slow down and evaluate my work and thought patterns. I found they were unhealthy and filled with self-doubt and the lie that I was “too old” or “too out of touch” with the industry that I wanted to be in. It had stopped me from creating. So I pivoted, and instead of setting lofty career and networking goals for myself, I took some time off, listened, and learned from the world around me, and then began smaller and more manageable projects that inevitably grew my skill set. It’s been a game-changer.
Adolescent: Can you tell me about your creative process?
Callie: Concept creation is something that I’m constantly working on. I see a cool space on my morning commute, watch a visually inspiring movie, or read an interesting article, and my brain immediately starts turning. I keep a running note on my phone where I jot down fleeting thoughts if I see or experience something inspiring. Later, I usually add them to a larger Google Doc. I then pull from this list when I’m working on a project. It’s filled with story ideas and creative concepts for photoshoots. With regards to actual shoots, I prefer to create my images through lighting and camera effects as I shoot, rather than editing in post. I shoot primarily with film, which adds to the experimental and raw nature that I want in my images. It also leads to moments of learning when something doesn’t turn out how I envisioned. I do tweak and play with things using Photoshop and Lightroom, but the bulk of my images are largely untouched.
Adolescent: How does being in NYC affect your work?
Callie: Honestly, at first I was intimidated and overwhelmed working in New York. There’s so much happening here and so many talented artists here that I started to question my own abilities and worth. The city has challenged me creatively to take steps forward with my big dreams, but it’s also reminded me that there are many other artists on my level wanting to [collaborate] and connect. This isn’t the case with every town and city, so I’m grateful for my access to collaboration. New York has grown me in viewing other artists as friends and potential co-creators instead of competition.
Adolescent: What’s it been like being an Adolescent Member?
Callie: In a way, Adolescent feels like a virtual NYC in that it’s filled with talented artists that are potential collaborators. I love that about the community. No matter where you are in the world, you can connect and share work, which always leads to creative and personal growth. It’s immeasurably challenging to do that alone. [Plus, as a Member], the intimate access you get to brand opportunities is like no other platform I know. The process of becoming a creator is confusing and intimidating, especially when you are young and getting started. I definitely feel that way. Adolescent Content builds that bridge to cross over into brand work in a way that is intimate and clear.