WELD Artist of the Week: Kelsi Williamson

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Career:  Photographer|  Copywriter
Website:  KelsiWilliamson.com
Mantra:  Be Brave.
Interview by:  Kristin Read

What’s a fact about Kelsi no one would have guessed?

I promise I’m a good person, but I really do not like animals. At all.

Tell me about your love of travel.

It’s something that really caught me off guard. I studied abroad during college and then became completely addicted. One of my favorite things in life is identifying similarities and differences between people from all over the world — there’s this constant tension between analogous cultural and even global ideas and lifestyles, and then each of our own unique characteristics and qualities. I love observing how this plays out no matter what country you’re in. And of course as a photographer, I love that I’m collecting “imagery” of every place I visit or live.

  India

India

For those who don’t know your history, can you tell us about your time abroad in Kenya?

I spent a year living and working as a Communications Fellow in Nairobi, Kenya with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization based in Washington D.C. Storytelling was one of my main responsibilities, but I also did a lot of other stuff for the office which was at times humbling, interesting, or both. I learned a lot about cross-cultural communication and serving where you are, and I was really sad to leave! The position only lasted a year, however, and I felt like it was time to be rooted somewhere where I’m learning and growing as a creative.

Why do you create?

I think over time my love of capturing life around me turned into a desire to share what I saw and imagined with others. My desire to create and share stories is also closely tied to my faith. I love processing how the world works and I think storytelling is the best way for me to give God glory for His creation.

What’s your favorite aspect of both photography and copywriting?

I think my favorite aspect of both is the ability to capture a moment or emotion and transfer that to someone else. I love that there is more than one way to do this.

Let’s talk about your creative giftings: Tell me about your love for capturing story through photos as well as words.

I’ve always loved writing. I remember writing short creative stories when I was in the first and second grade on our home computer, printing them out, and then attempting to draw illustrations for them. Unfortunately I wasn’t a very good illustrator, but I’ve always loved envisioning things and still have very vivid visual memories of people and places from a young age. The idea of capturing these memories or my thoughts forever is one of the reasons I became enamored with photography, and it’s the combination of photography and writing that I feel gives me the ability to say something — whether it’s about myself or about the world around me — that I wouldn’t be able to accurately and fully do otherwise.

 Kima Cottage, Kenya, May 2013

Kima Cottage, Kenya, May 2013

Are you self-taught or did you receive formal training?

I graduated from Abilene Christian University with a Journalism degree in 2011, and left school feeling super prepared as a writer and super unprepared as a photographer, so I feel like I’ve had a little bit of both.

How do the two mediums vary? What about your technique/style has to change depending on the outlet you’re creating content for?

That’s something I’m still figuring out and growing in. I tend to write in a very straightforward way without much embellishment, and because of my background in journalism, I usually approach photography in the same way. However, I love to push myself conceptually with photography and hope that’s something that I improve in over the next few years. I think a lot of times, my technique changes more depending on what type of story I’m trying to tell rather than on what medium I’m using.

What have you learned about yourself through your work in the last 6 months?

Do you mean this last week? This is such a period of growth for me — so overwhelmingly so that I don’t think I can even begin to grasp it. My problem in the past is that I just haven’t had or made the time to prioritize photography and writing, so I’m really stretching myself to learn as much as possible right now — whatever and however that has to happen. I am learning a lot about letting go, taking risks, and not being afraid to fail. It’s an exciting place to be to actually want to fail in order to get better.

 Gondar, Ethiopia, September 2011

Gondar, Ethiopia, September 2011

What about your technique/style has changed over time, what stays consistent?

I usually approach any story pretty methodically and try to have a plan of what I need to capture from start to finish. A lot of times I ditch this plan halfway through, but as I continue to learn, I find the process from pre to post production is becoming much more streamlined … making it easier to stick to the original plan.

Do you have a signature writing/photo style?

Documentary with an emphasis on human interest.

What do you enjoy most about the WELD space? Why’d you choose to become a WELDer?

I’m so excited to be at WELD, and honestly, it’s one of the main reasons I moved to Dallas. I was fortunate to be a part of the first Light the World Workshop with Austin Mann and Esther Havens in the fall of 2011, and learned so much about how important collaboration is for storytellers and creatives. As I prepared to transition back to life in the states, I knew that if I was going to grow as a storyteller, I needed to be a part of a community that pushed and encouraged me, and that’s definitely what I’ve already found at WELD. This is one of the few places where people — regardless of their level of experience — are willing to stop and take time to talk with you.

Doug Klembaraby Kristin Read