We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelly Robyn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelly, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
There’s two very important factors behind my success.
The first, is understanding the importance of team work. When I first started out I used to try to wear all of the hats. I was always trying to do everything myself. Which looking back was a good thing for me to learn what I’m actually good at, and not so good at. Through that process of trial and error I learned that I love being on set and post editing, but I didn’t excel in pre-production and planning. With my creative brain I struggled to organize every detail that goes into planning a shoot, which can often take weeks or months of planning. Now I work with an amazing Art Director, whom I appreciate so much for all of her planning skills. She’s a super organized Virgo; she helps to amplify the process and outcome of the work that I do. Now I can’t imagine ever working without her.
The second, is understanding the importance of branding. I’m a photographer with a BFA Design degree, and I come from a branding design background. So I always consider my clients branding and every detail in my creative approach. I’m a photographer that believes it’s not about perfecting my own unique style that’s most important, but it’s more about our client’s specific needs and branding. Every brand that I’ve worked with is so different, so pumping out the same look and style for everyone doesn’t sit well with me. My belief is that it’s not about me, but it’s about working as a team to create this unique message that the client to trying to say to their specific audience.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
There have been some rough edges from my past that I needed to come to peace with to let my inner light shine through. It’s important for me to relate to others that I understand how it feels to struggle financially, to be bullied, to lose people I love, for my big exciting dreams to completely shatter, for people close to me to doubt me and not support me, etc. But this has given me perspective for those that are having a hard time in life, and gave me the desire to help and mentor other creatives.
My path has been one of taking risks, transformation, and allowing things to shift. But one thing has always remained the same throughout my life, I’ve always been naturally drawn to light and how it waltzes with details. I’ve always been creative my whole life. I’m a born observer. I notice the beautiful details in everything everywhere I go. I see pictures even without having my camera in hand. I’m highly aware of light. It’s just become so evidently clear to me that my purpose is to pay attention to the beauty in the details and share them with others.
I feel happiest when I have freedom, and when I surround myself with other creative people that are on a similar frequency. But just a few years ago you would have found me feeling pretty exhausted from working 8 hour days on my feet as a waitress for 13 years.
I had worked two serving jobs while in full time design school and saved all my money. After I graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design, I decided to ditch everything I owned to move to London to work at a design studio. Living abroad was a wonderfully inspiring experience. But after my visa expired in the UK, I was heart broken that my big exciting dream of living in London didn’t work out long term like I hoped.
So I returned to the States with nothing but great memories, and a pair of extremely worn Doc Martins. Having had ditched everything, I had no car, no bed and just whatever had fit in my suitcase. I felt lost for quite a while after my return. I had many identity crisis freak outs for several years to follow. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or where I belonged. So I went back to doing what I knew best, being a waitress in a small brewery in a small town.
I made decent money as a waitress, but it felt soul killing to only be doing a job for the money. I knew I had so much more to offer the world through my skills and creativity! Then one day I got fired, I had never been fired in my life. And that same day one of my dearest friends passed away from cancer. This all hit me at once. Losing a friend like her was one of the toughest things I’ve ever experienced, but also one of the main reasons I now live for my passions. I’m a firm believer that your power is hidden in your pain, and your pain becomes your purpose. Losing her the same day I got fired was a major turning point for me. It was then that I decided that I was going to push myself out of my comfort zone and go for being a full time creative. It was then that I made the promise to her and myself that I would live my life the way she would have if she could have. Because of Joanna, I’ve found my purpose.
People see me now and never would assume all of the hurdles it took for me to get to this point. I didn’t wake up like this. There’s no investors, rich parents, or sugar daddy helping me along. I just had to make choices. It has taken a lot of work. In the beginning of building my business, I remember working 12-16 hour days. But I was always open to creating many paths and I think that’s served me well. Looking back over the past 7 years, I can now see how the puzzle pieces slowly flowed in one by one, and more puzzle pieces are showing up. More is on the way.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’ve lived in LA since 2015, and have lived in West Hollywood, Downtown, and now Santa Monica. I believe I’ve explored LA quite well, so I know a ton of cool spots on any side of town. First, we’d start with West Hollywood. I’d take them to brunch at the super fun, colorful outdoor experience called Summer Social Club, it’s an outdoor pop up put on by Employees Only (I rebranded them during 2020) Then we’d hop over to Laurel Hardware for a sneaky cocktail or two. EPLP rooftop on Melrose can be a good time. If we’d like to see some live music or even a vinyl record dance party we’d hit up one of my favorite bars Harvard & Stone.
If we’re talking Downtown I would definitely suggest the Broadway Market for a huge selection of different foods. There’s so many options and it’s just fun to walk through and people watch. Ace hotel rooftop, as well as the Hoxton rooftop can be fun for a dip in the pool, or cocktails and nibbles with friends. Sibling Rival downstairs at the Hoxton has a great brunch. The Nomad hotel is a beautiful hotel with a gorgeous rooftop as well.
I’m having fun exploring the west side, since I moved in December of 2020. The proper hotel is one of the most well designed and stimulating places to visit. They have a beautiful rooftop as well (can you tell I love rooftops?!) Across the street is Sidecar Donuts, which has the BEST donuts you’ll ever experience. There’s often a line, so be prepared to wait. Michaels off 3rd street is a cute neighborhood spot where locals like to walk in for a glass of wine or dinner on the patio. It’s a romantic little spot. If you’re looking for a cool cocktail bar I recommend The Misfit, great atmosphere and interiors, great food and drinks – it’s one of my favorite bars on the west side.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I believe that you don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the movies you have watched, the music you have heard, and the people you have loved. There’s so many special things and people throughout my life that have supported and guided me down this path.
Both of my parents understood my need to express my creativity as a child, and this was never stifled but encouraged. I was always taking some art class, painting, making things, or expressing myself in some way. My mom would always point out the beauty in the details and the beautiful light just about everywhere we went, which helped trained my eye to do the same. My father taught me all about good work ethic, and how to navigate and negotiate in business matters. He was always good with sharing and talking about ideas.
When I was growing up, my mother and I loved watching classic movies together. We especially loved to watch Hitchcock’s films. We would point out the way he would use lighting and camera angles to suggest whether the character in the film may be a good guy or a bad guy. We thought it was genius how he would use lighting for foreshadowing, and how he would leave so much up to the viewers imagination.
At the age of 23, I was chosen to be mentored by a fashion photographer Steven Silverstein in Paris, and to attend Paris for Haute Couture week. This experience refined and developed my eye for beauty immensely. My style sense and standards for my photography up-leveled in a major sense after this experience.
After Paris, I came back home to California to continue my education in Design, because I wanted to learn something that held hands well with my photography skills. After earning my BFA in graphic design I continued my international resumé by working for a design studio in the heart of London, England. This was the most grand experience of all, the experience that opened me up to a whole new way of being and seeing the world. I’ll always be grateful to London for how inspiring of a city it is, and how it shaped me. I’ll never get over that city.