Play; Friends

As an adult it can often be hard to make friends. As a child it is your full employment. We all make friends through work and projects, but it is rare to see someone you think is cool without having much in common and say: “do you want to be friends?”

He had cool jeans and I was in a chatty mood and that is how I met Brooks Geenen. He was serving coffee and I was drinking it. A romantic intro if it were a Hollywood movie, and a delightful encounter in this life. We got to know each other and over a love for coffee and clothes, I asked him “do you want to be friends?” he accepted my invitation and thus started a fun friendship over drinks learning about each other’s ways. Brooks is an incredibly talented photographer and I was some guy with ideas. We would work together one day but wanted to pieces to fall as they may.

We booked a date for a shoot and figured out the details later. Leading up to the day I found a location. A beautiful giant building in St paul owned by Forage Modern Workshop and Summer-Winter Studios. The goal of the shoot was simply to take good photos that we enjoy to look at. All of these photos were shot on a 4x5 view camera. This is challenging to do because you are not able to snap a lot of photos and hope one looks good. You need to make sure all the settings, lights, range, focus, color, and subject is exactly right. Then everyone holds their breath… Brooks sets himself in the ready… and takes the picture. The focus and developing of each shot I found to be more engaging and thoughtful, and ultimately yielded rich beautifully composed pictures.

My role was to style the shoot. The models were Jessica Manning, a gifted songwriter and style guru, and Ashley Mary, a successful artist and illustrator. My collection of vintage clothes has grown over the years and so I went through every piece and pulled the things that I felt drawn to. I did not plan much before hand, I brought all the clothes and let the moment help me pick the outfits and used the feedback from everyone in the room. Clothes are meant to be worn and the exploration of garments on bodies is an intoxicating adventure.

All of this thought and design was important, but the main ingredient was Play. I can get caught up in the larger picture and drown in expectation when creating something. So this shoot was a space for 4 friends to play. No bad ideas, no mistakes, only a creative space welcoming ideas and aesthetic. We need space to play like when we were kids, making friends and just seeing what happens on the other side.

These photos are a result of friends who play.

Celebrating the opening of “Continuum of Will” by Brooks Geenen. Dec 7. 2018, Amery WI.

-Benjamin Kelly