10 Questions: Kelly Sutton


A trained teacher (she has a Masters in Teaching!), Kelly Sutton found her second career (3rd?) as a photographer after spending time at home caring for her children. She is now a Californian based children’s  photographer. When you view Kelly’s work, you are instantly hit by raw emotions; kids crying, messy tables/rooms, poignant portraits of a little one’s gaze caught between moments – the perfection in the imperfection captured is beyond heartwarming. Some of her most powerful work revolves around the kitchen table at home – a simple concept documented only with a single Canon body & a Sigma 35mm lens. Kelly’s great eye for suspended moments skillfully captures the energy, the memories of growing up – a story about you when you were little.  Hope you find magic in Kelly’s storytelling as much as I have in putting this post together.

On behalf of LLF Team once again, have a Merry Christmas, safe holidays and a darn awesome 2016!

NB: includes hyperlink to Star Wars trailer – potential spoiler for the purists!

1. What do making images mean to you?

For me, it just has to be honest, true, and from the heart — storytelling in its most raw form. With each image, I’m writing our family history, and at the same time paying homage to this tornado called Motherhood. Documenting my family, our ordinary, everyday life together, and our real love in whatever shape and color it casts in those suspended moments in time, has become my love language.  By nature, I tend to be a quiet observer. Thankfully, I’m perfectly content sitting with my back against the wall, hiding behind my camera, as the story unfolds, in front of my lens. My dearest friends will share that I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I don’t always have a lot to say. For my family, these images are my love letters to them, because the words I don’t always share out loud fail me. For others, these images are my way of letting them know, you’re not alone…Life, motherhood, parenting, “adulting,” is damn hard, but so rad at the same time. It’s nice to feel like we’re on the same team.


2. What is life to you? What it should be?

Heart, humor, and humanity. My family is my everything. We have a good life filled with laughter and sarcasm. We are happiest when we are together.  I don’t take myself too seriously, but everyday I try work a little bit closer to leaving the world a little more beautiful, a little more wise, a little more just, with much more love and acceptance for everyone. It’s important to me to try and create the kind of world I want my boys to grow up in. As big and daunting as that task can be. I want them to see that it’s the little moments, collectively, that can make a world of difference.  All I want to do is teach peace, and do something creative, everyday.


3. There are a lot of professions out there – why be a photographer?

Funny enough, I am teacher, before I am a photographer. Up until my first son was born, just four years ago, my life revolved around teaching, and social change through education. I’m always proud to share I earned my Masters in Teaching from the Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco. Before resigning to stay home with my two sons, I taught middle school in a low-income, rural, agricultural district, for six years, and still miss it, every day — well, I really miss the kids. Photography is something I’ve always loved, but in these last short few years where I have found myself up to my eyebrows in motherhood, it has re-energized my creative heart, and provided me with an identity beyond being a mother, albeit ironically the major theme in my work is this life of motherhood.  I do photograph others, on occasion, but my truest art comes from the images I create for my family.

4. What movie did you love recently?

I can’t tell you the last movie I saw where I didn’t fall asleep before the ending, although I’m sure that within a week’s time, the answer to this question will undoubtedly be Star Wars: The Force Awakens (potential spoiler: link to movie trailer) 😉 Honestly though, my husband and I save the rare occasion we are out by ourselves for a cold beer, and seeing our favorite bands live. The last show we saw that made my heart oh-so-happy was Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield sing Elliott Smith. There’s something about witnessing music in person that I find absolutely magical, especially when I find myself sitting with my forever love, in a tiny neighborhood theater deep in Los Angeles, listening to songs so ever dear to my heart…songs that are the soundtrack to my youth, songs playing in real time, that I never thought I would ever hear live again. It was a beautiful evening I will not soon forget.


5. Is/Are there any project(s) you wish you could do – or might do?

So much of my personal work is real, everyday life, with no planning, thus I tend to not think of projects until I am immersed in them already. My “Diary of a Kitchen Table Series” or “An Education of the Love of Brothers Series” have materialized completely organically. I mean, I never imagined the role my kitchen table would take on in my images, and now it’s become a defining piece of who I am as a photographer. Evolution is imperative in the world of art, so I’m always open to new ideas and projects. I think if I had to make a wish list, I would love to travel more for photography, as well as expand my list of collaborations, with photographers that challenge me artistically. I’ve been really lucky to find a few small groups of photographers already who not only do I feel honored to call dear friends, but also give me support and push me creatively. I consider myself very lucky, indeed.


6. Do you shoot with your left or right eye?

Right eye.


7. Are there any unseen experimental images in your attic you’d like to show us now? 

I feel pretty open with sharing the images I create, as I create them. If I have tried something new, or experimental, I share those before any others. I like to release them into the universe, whether anyone else ever sees them or not. It’s always scary to share something, especially something that has pushed me creatively, but I believe growth comes along with vulnerability. If I can push something out into the world, no matter how scary it may feel at the time, in the end I am stronger for it. So I guess the short answer to that question is, “No…not really.” 😉


8. Who was an influence growing up?

At what age do we consider ourselves fully grown? I guess I would define that based on life perspective. Fifteen years ago, I would have considered myself an real deal adult, while now, in my mid-thirties I genuinely consider myself growing up still, or maybe I’m regressing. I met my husband at the young age of twenty-one, and he’s been a huge influence and support in who I have grown into, over the last fourteen years. He is a very talented artist and Art Director, in his own right — he’s my biggest cheerleader and my most honest sounding board. He’s always given me the space needed to be my true self, and for me, that’s the best influence I could ask for.


9. If you were to start all over again, is there anything you would do differently? Why?

All the rejections, feelings of self-doubt, uncomfortable moments, and triumphs are all unique to me, and have helped me find my unique voice. I can’t imagine doing anything differently–I like where I’ve found myself.


10. Where do you see yourself in 10 year’s time?

Happy, enjoying life with my family, and my camera in hand. I’m not much of a planner.   


Bonus Q: Do you think the gear you use affects the way you photograph? Why?

I like to keep it simple. I shoot solely with my Canon 5D MIII and my Sigma Art 35m/1.4. I find myself shooting indoors, in low-light often, and I find this combination to be amazingly versatile for whatever kind of light I find myself in.

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Comments (2)

  1. Luciane Rosinato Valles

    oh kelly, i love your work and i’m so glad to see you here and learn a bit more about you 🙂

  2. Ari Dorfman

    This is so great. Such amazing images and such a great heart and soul Kelly!!!

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