It’s morning and the bush buzzes. The eucalypts crack in the rising heat; whip birds call in the distance. A chorus of currawongs is met by a cackle of kookaburras.
Below all is the constant hum of insects, hinting at things hidden beneath that which is first seen. Here, where the forest opens and granite nestles amid the mossy green, is Kellie North, award-winning photographer and visual artist.
Kellie moves with practiced precision, working silently, listening to nature and to her own internal landscape. She was drawn intuitively to this rock. Yesterday it was a rock pool that pulled her in, tomorrow a tree might call to her. She senses something here that resonates with a feeling bubbling to the surface of her mind, an emotion that signals a truth within her. She hopes to capture the moment so she can portray it as a visual story as fully as she experiences it, here and now.
A month or two earlier, something awoke in Kellie, perhaps it was an idea, something she read in a book, a felt emotion, a movement she wants to try that plays with contradictions such as freedom and constraint or strength and vulnerability, a faced situation, a creature, or a beautiful piece of fabric she has found. Whatever the idea, she has sat with it, encountered it in her life, seen it everywhere, dreamt of it, researched it, until it led her here. With her tripod camera and costumes, she feels the coarseness of rock underfoot and wind dancing over her skin, singing through the leaves.
Kellie flows through a series of dance moves and poses, and in this moment, she is of the earth, she is an expression of the nature we see around us. She is archetypal, like Artemis and Aphrodite, yet she is also extremely human, defenceless and accessible. She is a symbol of the contradictions of life: joy and struggle, masculinity and femininity, the intimate and public, freedom and obligation, the social and solitary, majesty and the domestic. Kellie is unearthing understandings about nature and our relationship to it, the self, and the female experience and form. Shot by shot, each new insight is exposed.
Kellie is at home here, in her body, cradled as she is by the land. Later, she is just as at home in her studio selecting images, building up layers, playing with colour and light, and striving for an image that reflects that which first captured her months before.
In the completed piece, Kellie sees her ideas resolve. Through her art, she invites us to discover something about ourselves that we had perhaps not previously known or recognise we have lost. We are prompted to reclaim aspects of ourselves, our dreams and our hopes. In this way, Kellie’s art resonates below our skin, her images thrum in the core of our chest like a heartbeat. “Remember…” they tell us, “Remember your strength, your heart, your joy, your humanity.” Kellie’s pieces give us space to investigate our own emotional lives, to release the difficult and rejoice the loved.
Kellie weaves the pain, love, loss and joy of life, drawing from nature, from her own cultural inheritance, from her love of dance and from an understanding of and curiosity about the feminine, the female experience and the many strong women in her life. In a carefully choreographed movement and with waves of colour and light, she shows us all that she has uncovered.
Born in Mackay, in north Queensland’s sugarcane country, Kellie became aware of the elements of nature from a young age, camping, swimming and fishing. Nature has always been integral to her life, as it is now to her art. “I feel very connected to nature. It gives me energy, revives me, connects me again to my family, to myself, and to the earth. From this space, I can look back on my art, my processes, my present life.”
While always creative, it wasn’t until Kellie picked up a camera in her twenties that her self-taught exploration into art really began. Kellie was inspired by the many faces of women she met and photographed travelling through America, South America, India, Asia, England and Europe; strong women whose faces taught Kellie of the power of an image to tell universal stories of love, pain, joy and loss.
After returning to Australia, Kellie became a wedding and food photography, honing her skill, earning her stripes. But it wasn’t until she completed a Diploma in Professional Photography in 2014 that she felt profoundly drawn to photography and to walking a line between photography and art.
Kellie continues to explore her craft, moving into new directions and playing with differing media. More recently, embroidery has been a feature of her pieces: a process which elevates both photograph and stitch to an artform. Kellie continues to push the boundaries of both photography and digital art to discover what is possible.