The quiet light that lazes through the windows of Kelly Ishmael’s Tulsa, Oklahoma home whispers on fresh cut flowers, filling mornings with cozy comfort as she readies herself for her day. As her husband wakes, the dogs stir, and she looks around and knows inherently that there’s still more room for happiness to grow.
Kelly, a geological consultant by day, built the rest of her life around her family: husband, daughter, two dogs. From the outside her suburban house looks like a sweet, comfortable place to build a family. Inside the soft fragrances of the season make you think you walked into a Hallmark commercial.
“For years I followed my daughter everywhere with the camera,” Kelly explained, a self-labeled scrapbook mom and family documentarian. “We’re a unit – my husband, daughter and myself. For eighteen years that’s how things were. We’ve just always done everything together.”
One day, however, it struck Kelly like a freight train. Her daughter would soon be moving out to go to college.
“Oh shit, what am I going to do now!?” she wondered. “For years it was the three of us (my husband, myself, and my daughter). We were a unit. And now the muse, for this thing that I like to do, is gone. What does that mean for me?”
She weathered the storm of her ‘super dramatic midlife crisis’ and, all the while, continued taking pictures. Without her daughter around Kelly “learned to see life through the camera a little bit differently; I began to see myself and my whole life a little bit differently.”
It isn’t uncommon for mothers to feel the pains of an empty nest. So much of a mother’s identity revolves around her home and her children that, when they’re gone, can be tough for some to deal with. During this transition, Kelly decided to take a ‘Big Picture’ photography class taught by Tracey Clark, a formidable lifestyle photography and motherhood blogger. In this time she learned some new technical skills, but ultimately began to understand more about the heart and emotion behind the genre of everyday photography.
“That totally spoke to me. That’s what turned around my empty nest and gave it a little room to grow.”
In this transition she also started a blog. Though no longer in the mommy-blogger niche, her site Minding My Nest touches on many common family and crafty themes that female photographers would be interested in. Unknowingly, as she discovered editing tools for her photography, Kelly developed a consistent tone and feel for her photography.
“The softer tones and matte finish feel right for me. It’s timeless,” she explained. “I don’t know if I set out specifically to shoot for a homey and cozy vibe. The idea of layers and slight color adjustments just feel natural for me (because of my technical dayjob). I aim to take technically good photos first and then enhance the mood of the photo slightly in Lightroom. It’s just another tool in my arsenal.”
A few years after she really began to dig into photography, as a hobby, tragedy struck her family. An extended family member committed suicide, and it hit Kelly’s family pretty hard. Where previously much of her photography was very light hearted and bright, in this time she found herself in some personal darkness.
“It wasn’t that I was personally or consciously in a dark place, but this experience made me face darkness fact to face.” Though the morose emotions worried her a bit, she embraced the feelings and began “exploring the idea of shadow and light in my own photos to mirror how I was experiencing darkness in my own life.”
Amidst her blogging in this time a John Gay quote stood out to her – ‘A shadow owes its birth to light.’
Particularly it struck her that a shadow is only darkness because of its contrast to light. Light is only a bright and shining moment because of the depth and darkness that is created by shadows. One is not one without the other. Since then, even though emotionally Kelly has recovered her footing and moves forward every day, she has echoed this idea in her photographs.
“Photography is a way for me to deal with struggles for myself first, and if it somehow inspires or brings comfort to someone else [through my photos or blog] that’s worth it.”
Along her journey, Kelly has become an active member of the Shutter Sisters, a gang of female bloggers and Flickr photographers that has come together around photography of, by, and for women.
Kelly took a moment to show us the world #ThroughHerLens. It is filled with quaint moments that she draws inspiration from. Her home, her family, and her female FlickrFam drive purpose and infuse her photography with emotive sunrays that drift through her curtained windows.
Like what you see? Check out Kelly Ishmael’s Flickr Photostream or join the Shutter Sisters for more inspiration. Many artists here would be happy to show you the world #ThroughHerLens. Kelly also has a number of Lightroom tutorials available on her website. Check them out!