“I can spend an hour in a square metre of garden bed. I feel so driven to capture the tiny things that others ignore, it’s almost a fear… what if nobody else ever photographs that plant? I have to make its life have been appreciated, if only for a moment.”
Kell Rowe had a camera in her hand from the time she was 8; photography has always seemed a natural and integral part of who she is.
“Photography is a way of life for me. It’s not something that I can just give up…”
She studied photography during and after high school, and has since completed a Diploma in Photography. Early on in her career, she won a few agricultural show awards, and the Darlington Arts Festival prize for junior photography. “It was a $70 prize, and a certificate was presented to me by aerial photographer, Richard Woldendorp. I was only 17 at the time, so it was a pretty big deal.”
Kell is a photographer of many things, based in Perth, Western Australia. She is the face and force behind Blackcurrant Photography, which specialises in glorious images of Australian wildflowers – native orchids, banksias, acacia, ti-tree, kangaroo paw and more. Her images are rich, sensual and delicate; getting up close and capturing that fragile point in time is at the core of what she does.
It’s also that sense of briefness that she admires in two of photography’s greats – Annie Leibovitz and Alfred Eisenstaedt. “They immersed themselves in the scene, getting right up close to the action, so that anyone looking at the photograph got an immediate sense of being in the moment. ”
And it’s that sense of the moment that she has carried through to another project she has undertaken. Kell’s series “My place in time” is an exploration of Perth and its surrounds – the architecture, the people, and the changing landscape. “I started the project just under a year ago as Perth was in the grips of sharing old photos and celebrating our history. I was concerned that a whole generation of photos may be lost because these days many people don’t print their photographs, and don’t take many pictures of their local area. I have discovered so much about my city since I started, and whilst I sometimes regret rushing on writing the prompts, I appreciate that it encourages me to take photos I normally wouldn’t have.”
“Whenever I view street scenes from the past, I love searching for signs and old cars, little details. These sorts of photographs were always taken with a hugh depth of field (f16 or f22) and I have started to apply that to my own street photography. I love scenes that go on forever, for the eye to explore.”
Kell stumbled across Etsy in 2007, and started selling her work online shortly after. And even though she spends time communicating with friends via social media, and frequently makes sales to overseas customers, she says the distance that that entails has never quite sunk in; how it means her work is being worn and is on people’s walls 20,000 kms away. “I still mentally group friends in NZ with friends in the Eastern States. It was nice to have someone recently remind me that it is a big deal. I do always get a thrill when I get notification that someone liked my work enough to buy it.”
“I don’t really have a best piece of advice, but I have lots of little mantras that run through my head, usually relics from photography lecturers over the years. Things such as “never trust the strap” (always hold the camera too), “check your backgrounds”, and “always leave the house with your camera”. I’m getting better with that last one.
“One that’s changed my photography the most is to ‘zoom with your legs’. I used to take my kit lens, an 18-70mm zoom lens everywhere but I was finding it very heavy and tiring; now I love the 35mm. Because my camera is called an APS-C and isn’t full frame, my 35mm lens behaves like a 50mm. It gives me a similar field of view to the press photographers of old, and the closest to what I actually see with my own eyes. If I want to photograph something I have to physically get up close to it. This has helped me a lot with getting used to being in crowds and getting out of my comfort zone. Because it is so light and small, I feel that I don’t look as threatening as I did with a zoom lens… because sometimes strangers still get weirded out if you’re taking photos of them in public. Even if it is perfectly legal to do so.”
Kell sells her photographs as prints, greeting cards, and features many of her flower images on earrings and pendants. You can find more of her work in her Etsy shop, BlackcurrantShop, and on her own website, www.blackcurrantphotography.com.au