For Bend, Ore. photographer Julia Kelleher, photography is a family affair. Her photography studio, Jewel Images, is celebrating 10 years of capturing family milestones, including the arrival of newborns, pregnancy and other family portraits. Kelleher also shares her own family moments through the photographs she enters in yearly competitions.
Recently, Kelleher’s quest resulted in a Sunset Print Award for her winning portrait, “Deeply Attached,” in the PPA Western District 2017 competition.
The portrait depicts her young son holding a toy dog attached to a blanket, a gift given to him by his aunt when he was born. Dean’s toy goes by many names, such as “Blankey” or “Stuffy.”
“I really wanted to capture Dean with it,” Kelleher says. “Blankey has been through a lot with us, and it’s his comfort, it’s his security, and whenever he’s in trouble or whenever he’s upset or feels bad, Blankey is the first thing he grabs to snuggle with.”
At first, the photo was simple, taken casually with her son standing against a grey background. Using Corel Painter, Kelleher transformed the photograph to reflect the relationship between a child and their favorite toy. She finished the print presentation with blue-on-blue mats.
“I wanted to convey that sense of juxtaposition, light versus dark; when a child has a dark moment, a bear or a ‘stuffy’ brings them out of it and helps comfort them, so that’s why the image has the dark left side and very bright, light, pastel-colored right side,” Kelleher explains. “The brushwork was very strong and purposeful on purpose to convey the boldness that often accompanies a child with strong emotions.”
While Kelleher has been told that it is a risk to enter photos of one’s children in to competitions, she completely disagrees. “People say don’t enter you kids but I say its hogwash,” Kelleher says. “It pushes you as an artist to emotionally—yes, of course you’re emotionally attached to the image—but, it also teaches you to emotionally withdraw and be objective about the art.”