Interior Portraits w/ Photographer Kelly Marshall

The work feels personal, it doesn’t feel like work that’s done to highlight the space but to highlight the people who occupy the space. How do you choose your subjects?

If you are listening, spaces tell you everything you need to know about their inhabitants, and I try to honor that permission. Outside of work assignments, I’m an equal opportunity house hunter. Every room has a story to tell, and I love tuning into its frequency. It’s been my experience that money doesn’t buy taste, peace or love. Everyone despite access, geography, or money has a relationship to the four walls (or however that is interpreted) that enclose their inner world. I love documenting that engagement.

I’ve been lucky enough to be on set with you when you shot an interior (The Rose Marie Ines Gallery inside The Brooklyn Circus), and it felt so involved yet experimental. What’s your normal process? Do you work with an assistant? Scout the space prior? Meet the owners to understand the vision?

My first questions usually revolve around daylight. Is there any? How much, and where? I prefer accenting existing light. There really is nothing like the real thing, but sometimes we have to give it a push! So, the process starts with what we have. I love collaborating and working within a team is my favorite way to work. Allowing each person to do their specialty and shine only enhances the final output. Often, though I do work solo, it’s a bit of a juggling act. You have to make sure the lighting is working, the gear is performing, you are also connecting with your subject and making great work. I like how you picked up on how I work, being both involved and experimental. Shooting interiors is very technical, but since there is a spiritual element to my process, I am open to the flow and how I am being guided to the story. You gotta roll with it sometimes! For me, it’s about making beautiful images that invoke a specific time, place, and feeling. I want the viewer to know exactly how it feels to be there.

How will your work be affected now that the world has shifted more indoors with less contact?

I think it’s a good thing we have been forced to slow down. The universe put us in a major time out and that will surely reflect the work we are going to see over the next few years. Like many artists, I was beyond excited to have some time to revitalize old projects and lean into existing ones. Not having to hustle so hard each and every day has allowed me to recenter myself, and the work I want to keep making. I have taken on more writing projects and activism work, so I am excited to see how this will inform and transform my future endeavors.

How do you refine your eye as an interior photographer?

That’s a good question! I suppose it’s like anything else, the more you do it the better you get at something. But, it’s also something that has taken me a long time to accomplish. I came up in a very white male dominated photo hierarchy (and it’s still this way). You had to work your way up from 4th assistant to 1st, and then save and hustle to go out on your own. Even then, clients were not looking to a Black woman to hire for interiors. I spent a lot of my career thinking that if I could just mimic the work of my peers I would be as successful. It’s not until you fully know your worth, and trust yourself, and your vision that your ‘eye’ or what I like to call perspective has true power. My greatest asset is my life experience, and ability to authentically connect with people. You can’t teach those things.