Wardrobe Snacks: Kelsey McClellan Answers Our Questions
San Francisco-based photographer Kelsey McClellan is one-half of Terrence Caviar, a collaborative partnership with Michelle Maguire. The collaborative duo recently worked on the project Wardrobe Snacks: a perfect coordination between colour, food and clothes.
Wardrobe Snacks was inspired by diners lacking the luxury of beingseated at a table: Michelle’s stepdad who rests hissandwich on his thigh (hell with a plate!) in between bites while he blasts an action movie on his TV; a commuter cramped up on a crowded bus retrieving an item from a bag or pocket; a lunch-breaker on a park bench eating from her lap. They’re informal —perhaps even a bit awkward — spaces as far as eating is concerned, yet the diner always appears to be comfortable and perfectly satisfied with his chosen snack, almost zen-like - KelseyMclellan.com
Today, Kelsey answers our questions about her stunning work, what drives her creative passion and her obsession for chocolate-chip cookies.
Tell us a bit about how your passion for photography and the arts was born.
I got my first camera when I was fifteen, my Dad’s old Olympus OM-1. I really loved tinkering around with taking long exposures at night - I would write down all my camera settings for each frame and study the differences when I got the film developed (I worked at the local camera store so I could develop loads of film for a discount). I liked not really knowing how something would turn out and being surprised/disappointed by the results. It was a fun experiment and I enjoyed learning the process slowly.
Did you grow up in an artistic family or environment and did that affect your choice in becoming a photographer later on?
Yes! My sister is an amazing painter/sculptor. We both went to art school and were constantly drawing together at home growing up or working on fake fashion photo shoots with our friends.
You're based in San Francisco: does the city have an influence on your creative process and networks?
It has definitely influenced my creative process - the city is so beautiful - I’m constantly losing my mind over some crazy hill or amazing topiary or pastel house. I have done work for clients I definitely wouldn’t have if I didn’t live here, but I hate networking events and things like that. I’d much rather meet with people one on one for an extended amount of time over the brief, awkward ‘hey what do you do’ sorta conversation over a cheese plate. I’m very bad at that and will probably just end up talking about Frasier.
Talk us through your creative process: does it start with an idea, a colour or some other type of inspiration?
It starts with any of those things! Sometimes one of us (me or Michelle) will find an object or surface material we really love and we’ll figure out how to work it into a photo or series.
You're part of a terrific creative duo: Terrence Caviar. Please, tell us how this was born and how it works in terms of collaborating with your friend Michelle Maguire.
Michelle and I first worked together on the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts cookbook in Columbus, Ohio in 2013. I photographed it and Michelle helped prop & style a portion. I moved to San Francisco in 2015 but we try to get together 5 times a year or so to work together, and we cram as much in as we can!
Wardrobe snacks has been all over the creative internet: how was the project born and how did it evolve?
It actually started from Michelle and I kinda being politically exhausted. It was right after the 2016 election and we just wanted to do something that we enjoyed for some release. Michelle found all of the clothing at estate sales and thrift stores, and from there paired foods with each palette. We shot a portion in Columbus and the other in San Francisco, so it was fun to source in two different cities for items leading up to the shoot.
You have a client list that would make any photographer extremely envious: from the New York Times to COS to Bon Appétit. Could you tell us how did it all start and what advice you'd give to any photographer starting now?
I started by reading every single word of Jake Stangel’s ‘advice’ posts on Tumblr - which he’s now put onto his website: https://jakestangel.com/Advice. (Jake is a really amazing photographer also based in San Fransico.) I took his advice and bought loads of magazines I felt shared my aesthetic and had work I liked, and found the editors and emailed them asking if they had time to meet and see my portfolio. One person I emailed first was Thea at the New Yorker, and I was so surprised and excited to know she had already seen my work. She even set up a shoot for me in New York while I was there over the summer of 2016, which was the first ‘big’ job I got. I think the most important part is not being too afraid to reach out to people - confidence is something I’ve always sort of lacked so I had to force myself to just do it and trust that my work was good and would speak for itself. Continuing to make personal work with Michelle has been incredibly helpful too. Since so many people have seen Wardrobe Snacks a lot of editors have reached out asking us to recreate it for them a certain way. It’s been very exciting and I can’t wait for what’s next.
One last (fun!) question: you describe yourself as a plant, cat and yoga enthusiast. Any other "passion" we should know about?
ha! Oh man, those three things take up a good chunk of time - I get pretty obsessive over what I like. I practice yoga everyday (vinyasa and sitting) and my favorite thing to do on a Sunday
after practice is wander around a new part of the city and look for good bushes. I also bake a lot of chocolate chip cookies, and pretty much only chocolate chip cookies.