Photographer Elliot James Kennedy strives to show the “middle moments” in his images
He has photographed some of England’s biggest cultural figures, but his approach to portraiture is more than just capturing a pose.
- Daniel Milroy Maher
- 8 July 2021
“The tutors at our university told us on the first day that one in ten of us (there were 50 on the course) had the chance of becoming photographers. I recall my mate and I looking at each other and telling ourselves that we were going to be one of them.” Elliot James Kennedy wasn’t wrong, and soon after finishing his degree in Fine Art Photography at Manchester Metropolitan University, he took his first steps towards making this dream a reality. “I began assisting here and there, but the one photographer that took me under his wing and had the patience and time for me was a photographer called Anthony Crook. He taught me about lighting and gave me a better understanding of what it was like to be a photographer.” Following Anthony’s guidance, in 2009, Elliot took the plunge and moved to London in search of a proper career in the medium.
After shooting various emerging and established musicians for publications such as Crack Magazine and Loud and Quiet, he made his first big breakthrough by landing a job at LAW magazine. “A friend of mine put me in contact with the editor John Holt who gave me the opportunity to become a part of the LAW family, where we worked on so many meaningful stories steeped in British culture,” says Elliot. “It was here that I realised I enjoyed photographing ‘real’ people with a story to tell. Finding what excited me about a story helped in turn to develop my aesthetic.” Elliot’s time at the London-based fashion publication also gave him the chance to hone his creative process, mastering the art of the photoshoot and giving him space to focus on the “casual and simple” connection to his subject that is now so evident in his photographs.
This amiable, down-to-earth approach has led him to huge career opportunities, signed by artist management agency DMB Represents, and the chance to work with big name publications and brands such as The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Man About Town, Nike, Adidas, and FILA, among others. More recently, he has photographed iconic English figures like the current England football team captain Harry Kane, boxer Anthony Joshua, and actor Russell Tovey. Alongside his more standard portraiture work, Elliot has also developed a fondness for mixing mediums. He frequently incorporates painting into his photographic output, especially in his personal projects, where he overlays handmade elements onto his images. “I became interested in colour blocking and collaging around my subject with paint, where you can see the brush strokes and rough edges isolating them from the background, focusing on that person and bringing the viewer’s full attention to the face or silhouette of the subject,” he explains. “This aligns with my approach to taking a photograph in the first place.”
He credits the inspiration for this recent development to the famous French photographer William Klein, whose own practice of applying paint to his contact sheets sought a similar outcome of drawing attention to certain aspects of his images. “I've always been interested in seeing the mechanics behind, and personal interpretation of, image making, as well as seeing an imperfection that gives a more realistic perception of someone,” he says. And this understanding is something that Elliot constantly strives for in his photographs – the result of the “middle moments”, as he calls them, in photoshoots. “They are the moments I am in search of at all times, when you get a glimpse of the real person in front of you. They can be hard to come by but they are what I strive for when taking a photograph.”
Elliot James Kennedy: Joss Bay Sisters (Copyright © Elliot James Kennedy, 2021)
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.