Kelly Hicks is the photographer for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and as such his camera often finds musicians creating on and off the stage. The photographs on display at Mugs Café feature these musicians in a series of portraits that explore them and their music. Kelly started his career working in the corporate world, but soon found inspiration behind the lens. Having made the transition from the cubicle to the darkroom, Kelly strives to capture all the stark details and colors of his subjects.
Katherine Williamson, Digital Archive Print, 24" x 18"
Why art? There are lots of things you can do in life, why did making art grab you and not let go?
I think everyone has a gift for something, whether it's creating art, helping others, or being a software developer. Growing up I was jealous of other kids who had an exact idea of what they wnated to be. It took a long time to realize that I had to express myself through art versus other aspects of my life. Once I started to work with photography I was hooked and knew that that was what I wanted to do in my life. I've never felt that feeling with any other vocation or task before then or after.
Yeah, it’s a question that gets asked a lot, but I’m going to ask it again: What inspires you?
I'm inspired by a lot of things. Lately, I've been on a foreign movie kick and have been inspired by French New Wave films from the 1960's and surrealist like Jean Cocteau. I really appreciate the dark and moody lighting used in German Expressionism fimls and directors like Fritz Lang. However, nothing gets me more inspired then simplky visiting a gallery or art museum.
What do you find to be the hardest aspect to being an artist?
The hardest aspect of a working artist is wearing the many hats that it takes to be a one person operation. Marketing, finances, organization, networking, and keeping up with what is current takes a lot of time and adaptation. It can be overwhelming at times, but it is always interesting and I'm always learning something new. Over time, I've learned to embrace aspects of the job that are more on the business side which in itself can be very creative.
If you could say there is one thing that drives your creative process, what would it be?
I think as you get older you realize there is only a finite amount of time to create and get your work out there. Society is getting faster and faster with more images in the public domain now than ever before. The need to express myself, and at the same time differentiate my work from others is what keeps me focused and always evolving.
What role do you see the artist playing in a community?
In some ways, the artist has a responsibility to inspire other's through their "gift" of creativity. By putting their art in the public arena they are also making a statement about themselves and also inspiring others. It's important for me to inspire others in their creative process and be open to offer advice and experience to other people that are wanting to walk down the same road.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would like to continue to grow my commercial photography business and also start working on a backlog of personal projects that keeps growing. The photography industry is continuously changing so one never knows what might be around the corner.
Any ambitious or exciting projects on the horizon for you? What's new in your career that you're excited about and looking forward to?
I've been working with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra for the last few years photographing their concerts and backstage antics. It's really taught me a lot about seeing light and has given me a larger stage to present my work. I would love to work with other symphony and theater groups in the region and even on a national level. There is something about capturing the excitement backstage before the show that is very satisfying. The light is usually cool too!
I remember in graphic design class being told that after the class I would notice graphic design everywhere, and it would change the way I see the world. For me, that held true. Do you think art has that power for most people? Does it for you?
I think that everyone tunes into certain art forms. Where it may be music, photography, or design. Art is such an intricate part of our society and it permeates through everything we do, from smartphones to what cups we buy. We may not notice it, but it does. Photography has made me highly aware of light and how to see it in a different way than before. Art really enhances going out into the world and sensing things beyond the normal.
How big of an impact is music on your creative process? Many of the artists I know have to listen to music while they create. If it's a big part of your process, what do you listen to?
I use music when working on a shoot to relax the subject and also lighten up the process and make things more fun. I'll ask whoever I'm photographing what they listen to and have it set up so that they can program their songs on my computer. Of course, I love to listen to music when I'm doing post production or editing. I'm all over the place when it comes to music. A lot of the time I prefer electronic (EDM) music or something that is pretty fast paced and driving to keep me focused and engaged. It really depends on the mood though, as it can go from country, to classical music, to 80's new wave.
Black and white or full color? What floats your boat?
When I first became interested in photography it was always black and white film and a darkroom. However, most of my work is color simply because that is what clients want and expect. I love classic black and white images, but I've also learned to embrace color and it gives the image another variable to work with. I still prefer black and white a lot of times when I'm working with an image that has interesting tones or mood.
Great answers Kelly! Thanks for taking the time to share with us!