One Artist’s Unique, Surreal Photos of Travelers Rest
by Lacey Eibert Keigley
He’d probably driven by it a hundred times before he actually took the time to bring along his camera equipment at exactly the right time of day for the photograph he’d already been forming in his mind’s eye.
“I like to keep the art vague to let the reviewer bring their own feeling to it,” local artist Brian Kelley says.
And when you see the photograph featuring the side of the old Jarrard Hardware, located out on Geer Highway heading toward Marietta, your own feelings likely bump right into the artist’s feelings.
Brian, who lives and works in Travelers Rest, is a photographer, an artist, a carpenter — a jack of all trades of the creative variety.
This print, hanging in TR coffeeshop Leopard Forest, is an example of one of Brian’s favorite mediums and styles. It’s more than a photograph, really. It’s a bit of a painting, too. The process Brian utilizes originated back before color photography.
This photo of the hardware store was taken with a film camera during that golden hour right before sunset.
“I love to shoot during certain times. I always look for the light,” Brian shares. “When I do photography like that, I feel as if there is a truth to it. A truth to the moment.”
Afterwards, Brian prints the photo in his darkroom using a special paper.
“Once the developed image has been thoroughly washed and dried, I apply oil paint to the surface using cotton-tipped bamboo skewers,” Brian explains.
Following this step, the extra oil is removed and what remains is the final product — complete with its own unique subtleties and tones.
Travelers Rest offers much for inspiration for Brian’s personal style and vision.
“I really look for subject matter that compliments the process,” he says.
Subject matter like a Travelers Rest icon known as Little Texas Grocery. This photo employs one of Brian’s other trademark styles: Polaroid emulsion transfer.
The work is tedious, particular. Which suits Brian just fine.
“I don’t want to do things that are halfway done,” he confesses.
Just like the image in the photo itself, the process of the Polaroid transfer is a fading art. Brian says that Polaroid is no longer producing their film.
Another series of Brian’s — the sunflowers on the Walker Farm in northern Greenville County — undergo this same process to create their surreal, timeless appearance.
This process uses 35mm color slide film, an enlarging printer, and the art of transferring the image by using the exposed negative to literally place the image on another surface such as wood or glass or paper. There’s the use of hot water and cold water baths and separating the backing, and it’s all a very delicate working.
That entire hands-on, elaborate process is a piece of the appeal for Brian.
“I’m tactile,” Brian says. “I want to experience it, to touch it.”
He says the same about the history of a location, like the history of Travelers Rest.
“A lot of my friends are in their 70s. Speaking from experience matters so much to me,” Brian adds. “I live in the margins. And when I travel, I love the feeling of coming back home to Travelers Rest.”
For more information about Brian’s photography, visit BrianKelleyPhotography.com.
Writer – Lacey Keigley
Editor – Celeste Hawkins
Photography – Brian S. Kelley