I’ve often talked about how important collaboration is in video. And with the right mix of people collaborating – wonderful things can happen.
My longest collaboration has been with my husband and business partner, Tom Kelly.
Today marks our 35th wedding anniversary, but our relationship goes back even further – another 4 years. It’s truly hard for me to believe that so many years have gone by, but that’s what happens when one is busy living life.
The way Tom tells the story of the day we met is that we were with our classmates (our first class of Brooks Institute) on a field trip, and we ended up at a roadside hangout in the mountains just outside Santa Barbara, California. We were on a patio drinking beer – I was barely of legal age – and Tom spotted me – “this exotic chick with rings on all of her fingers and smoking Turkish Ovals (cigarettes)”. I didn’t have rings on all my fingers and I stopped smoking long ago, but the real reason I stood out back then was that I was 1 of only 6 women who attended Brooks at that time.
For me, going to Brooks Institute in the mid ‘70’s, was like mixing “oil and water”. I had just come back from a yearlong “hippie-backpacking” odyssey around the world. I was the ultimate free spirit and I was thrown into a rigid educational environment with ex GI’s from the Vietnam War. But, I met Tom and that’s when our collaboration began. I knew nothing about photography, other than managing to get lucky with some images that I took with my Nikon FTN and 50 mm lens, on my travels. Tom had processed reconnaissance film in the Air Force and had a dark room as a kid, so I looked to him for advice. That’s how we started and we quickly became a couple – being there for one another.
After graduating from Brooks, we moved back East and worked a year in NYC as assistants to two commercial studio photographers. (I had gone to high school in NJ and Tom grew up just over the state line in Pennsylvania) We also moonlighted, shooting jobs our bosses didn’t want to do and also shooting for ourselves on the weekends. One summer we took our bikes and cameras “down the shore” and shot a wonderful personal project on the boardwalk – some of those images shot during that summer, remain favorites of mine. Perhaps that’s when the lines between business and personal became blurred.
We were extremely lucky in our early years to have an amazing mentor, Adrian Taylor, who was art director of Travel & Leisure at the time. Adrian gave us many precious gifts as young photographers just starting out. The most important gift was his encouragement and his unwavering belief in us. Every time Adrian gave us an assignment, we wanted to raise the bar and Adrian’s eyebrows as well. Each assignment for the magazine was more challenging and ambitious, shooting major city stories with celebrity subjects, and luxurious environments in fabulous destinations. And the best part – we got to experience this together!
As much as we’ve had an extraordinary career, working together and independently, we’ve also had a wonderful marriage and family – our best collaboration – our daughter Erin. Tom and I are so completely opposite of one another, but somehow it has worked. Tom is more comfortable being out of the limelight and pointing it at me. What’s amazing is that Tom not only manages to produce his own jobs but he also takes care of a lot of things around the house. There is a whole secret world in our basement, that I know nothing about. I’m the dreamer with the crazy notion to think anything is possible and Tom has always been there for me, supporting my latest scheme and adventure. He has been the wind beneath my wings. It hasn’t been easy, and there have been times, when both of us have wanted to walk away – but we didn’t. In our “throw away society” I suppose that’s rare. I think it’s a pity that people give up too quickly – you never know what’s just around the corner.
Like any good story though, a life well lived comes with conflict and contrast. Sometimes that has to happen to get you to the “next place”. I’m grateful to be celebrating a life well lived with Tom, my husband, my partner, my soul mate.
Happy Anniversary Tom – love you.