As a purveyor of local events, arts & entertainment information (at least temporarily), I often find out about neat goings on that would never ordinarily make it onto my radar. The Penguin Planet photo exhibition at NV Lounge in Guelph is one such gem. When I first found out about the exhibit, the idea that someone from Guelph had photographed penguins in Antarctica piqued my curiosity. When I saw some samples from the photo series it only aroused my interest even more. I had the chance to speak with the artist responsible, Peter Kelly, so I wanted to share some of his comments here.
Who is Peter Kelly?
I'm an Ecologist at the University of Guelph. I’m also an author and photographer.
How long have you been interested in photography?
Since I was 12 probably.
Tell me about your first camera?
My first camera I got it for Christmas was a Ricoh 500G. It was a glorified point and shoot.
Do you work with film or digital photography?
I still work with film. I have two canon camera bodies that I use. Everything in the show was shot on film.
Colour or black & white?
I usually do a lot of black and white; that’s probably what I’m most interested in. In Antarctica, the blues were really something so I shot way more colour than I did black and white. There are some black and white photos at the show, about 14 colour and three black and white.
How did you end up in Antarctica and when?
I went in 2003. It’s someplace that I always wanted to go. You can actually go there as a tourist now [with Quest Nature Tours]. It’s incredibly expensive. I couldn’t really afford it. I basically got a loan to go on the trip. It was my life dream to go there. It was either do it now or not at all.
I’ve always loved penguins as well. And the opportunity to photograph in a place that was virtually untouched by man was awesome. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.
What intrigued you most about the so-southern continent?
I think the most interesting thing was the fact that people think about it as lifeless but it’s not. There's an incredible amount of life: humpback whales, seals, penguins, bird species... there's a whole ecosystem there. People think of it as a black and white place, rock and ice, but it's really a blue continent. The colours of blue there are really spectacular. The sky’s a blue we just don’t see here. The ice is various shades of blue, the water... It's an incredibly beautiful place.
In the summer there are 24 hours of sunlight. During the evening hours the light gets really low on the horizon, and you've got this blue and white, mountains of glaciers spilling into the ocean, low light orange glow... It's the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.
When did photography become art for you?
I’ve actually been photographing for a long time now. This is the first show that I’m going to have. I’ve accumulated this vast collection and friends and colleagues have been telling me you’ve got to let people see these. Richard at NV was particularly attracted to the Antarctic photos.
I’ve also just co-authored a book that features a lot of my photos in it as well – The Last Stand: A Journey Through the Ancient Cliff Face Forest of the Niagara Escarpment with Doug Larsen (Dundurn Press Toronto). It came out about a month ago. There are 65 colour photos in that as well.
"Planet Penguin": photographs from Antarctica by Peter Kelly at NV Lounge, 16 Wyndham Street North, Guelph, 519-827-1064. August 1-31, 2007.
For more Peter Kelly: Photos on www.flickr.com/photos/PeterKelly1.