PHLEARN MagazineHis ‘Wake Turbulence’ Photo Changed His Life: Aviation Photography by Mike Kelley

His ‘Wake Turbulence’ Photo Changed His Life: Aviation Photography by Mike Kelley

We seek the most talented photographers on the planet and ask them to share a bit about themselves and their creative process. Today we have the pleasure of learning more about LA-based architectural and aviation photographer Mike Kelley.

What’s the one quote that always fires you up?

MK: “There’s a myth that time is money. In fact, time is more precious than money. It’s a nonrenewable resource. Once you’ve spent it, and if you’ve spent it badly, it’s gone forever.” – Neil Fiore

Do you have any particular habits that are a part of how you begin your creative process?

MK: With personal work, it usually consists of me just booking a plane ticket to a destination that I want to photograph. Everything will work itself out around that – it’s like, once I throw down the $300, $600, $1000 or whatever, it’s on and it’s happening. Everything’s secondary to that.

With commissioned work, I can’t start without a good night of sleep, so I can’t say it’s a very exciting way to get started, but is absolutely necessary.

What do you do when you hit a wall during your creative process?

MK: Honestly, I procrastinate. Not the best answer…but it’s true. It will eventually come back. Sometimes I just need to walk away, lay on the couch and watch Netflix for an hour before I realize I’m wasting time and I get the urge to work again.

What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever captured and why?

MK: It’s gotta be Wake Turbulence. It’s the simplest, easiest answer but the amount of doors that photo has opened, the amount that it’s been seen and used, the amount of money I’ve made from it, what it represents to me and my background, etc, I just love it. I love what it stands for and the feeling I get when I look at it. Sorry, I’m totally gushing here, but making that photo was probably the second best decision of my entire career, second only to actually picking a camera up in the first place.

What book would you recommend any creative person read?

MK: Libyan Sugar by Michael Christopher Brown.

It puts all your problems in perspective, and makes you realize that while you’re here, you need to focus on making photographs that really matter. And I still struggle with that on a daily basis.


You can view more of Mike’s work at his website.

Dane Johnson

Dane Johnson was the former Editor of PHLEARN Magazine, where he helped creatives share their stories. Dane currently is the co-founder of Clementine Coffee Roasters and he accepts most assertions of his hipster-ness and millennialism without flinching.

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