Cincy is Creative: Ainsley Kellar tells stories, captures beauty, stirs wonder from behind camera

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati and the greater Tri-State region are home to people who excel in artistic and other creative disciplines. Each week, we’ll focus on a creative individual who is bringing new perspectives to our lives and enriching our cultural diversity.

Ainsley Kellar

WHAT: Videographer and photographer
WHERE: ARK Productions and Barn Studio #1 at Brazee Street Studios in Oakley
LATEST: Follow Your Innate Instincts...Avoid the Mindless Crowd
GREATEST: Ava by the Window

When Ainsley Kellar studied theater at New York University, she envisioned working as an actress in front of the camera. Since then she has discovered how creatively satisfying it is to work behind the camera. Kellar runs the successful video production company ARK Productions and is establishing a name for herself as a photographic artist.

Last fall one of her images won an award in the national "Objects of Desire" photography competition conducted by one of the nation's top publications for professional photographers – PDN (Photo District News). The image, depicting her 9-year-old daughter Ava by a window, was exhibited at PDN’s PhotoPlus Expo, an event that attracts more than 20,000 photographers to the Javits Center in New York. The accolade helped validate Kellar's experience that great things can happen when you focus on learning new skills.

A Captivating Storyteller

Kellar is a vivacious, engaging storyteller. Instead of bringing stories to life on stage, she tells stories visually through large photographic prints or the award-winning videos that ARK Productions has produced for commercial clients and nonprofit organizations. ARK Productions is a full-service digital video production house that creates TV commercials and corporate videos from script to screen.

Kellar has been in the video-production business for 14 years. Her company has won 18 Telly Awards. She branched out into photography in 2009 after the economy tanked and companies reined in spending on advertising and marketing projects.

Today, the walls of her spacious, airy photography gallery in Barn #1 of Brazee Street Studios in Oakley are filled with 30 x 40 inch framed prints of everything from street scenes in Venice and Tuscany to macrophotography of a butterfly. If you meet Ainsley Kellar during an open studio night at Brazee, she can tell you colorful stories about each and every photograph.

The story of her career is also riveting. It includes working on a movie filmed in Baltimore, auditioning for TV and film roles in Hollywood and landing a job as an assistant producer for KAJ-TV/KPAX in the small town of Kalispell near Glacier National Park in northern Montana. Kellar exudes so much confidence and positive energy that she landed the TV production job with a handwritten resume and no experience in videography.

“When I walked in the door, I didn’t even know how to turn the camera on," Kellar said with a laugh. "I didn’t know audio. I didn’t know anything about editing.”

Working with antiquated equipment, she spent nights and weekends learning everything she could about shooting video.

“It was a rough start, but I was loving every minute of it," Kellar recalled.

When the head producer left the station, she was promoted to the job. She worked on commercials for companies throughout the Kalispell, Whitefish and Big Fork region and produced public service announcements and a morning show called "Flathead This Morning."

Eventually, Kellar realized she could earn more money by establishing her own videography business. Many of the contacts she made at the TV station became her first clients.

Kellar might still be working in Montana if her marriage hadn’t ended a few months after her daughter was born. Facing the stress of being a single mother and a solopreneur, she returned to Cincinnati where her family could help her. The move meant restarting her video production business from scratch.

But she forged ahead and soon landed work producing commercials for WLWT. Now, her roster of clients has grown to include Beacon Orthopaedics, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Rita's School for the Deaf and People Working Cooperatively.

She particularly likes helping non-profit organizations tell their stories through unscripted mini-documentaries.

"The clients graciously allow me to weave their stories together after they speak from their hearts directly to the camera," explained Kellar. "Those are my favorite projects, because people open up to me. When I take the footage back to the studio it’s like putting a puzzle together. Each piece isn't necessarily going to run in the order in which I shot it."

Kellar just has a sense for how to put it all together to be most effective.

Kim Sullivan of People Working Cooperatively describes Kellar as an excellent videographer and "a wonderful storyteller who cares deeply about her clients."

From videography to photography

With the growth of online video and interactive media, many experienced professional photographers are scrambling to learn to shoot video.

Kellar is going the other direction, applying her knowledge of videography to her passion for photography.

“Having a background in video was very helpful to my photography because I had learned how to frame things and see what’s in the background," said Kellar. "Seeing what’s in the background is just as important as what’s in the foreground and the focal point "

She started seriously pursuing photography after a family trip to Venice. When a photographer friend saw some large prints of some images she had taken during the trip, he suggested they were good enough to exhibit. He recommended Kellar's work to a friend organizing a photo exhibition.

Getting that vote of confidence from her photographer friend changed everything, said Kellar.

“Once I started showing the pictures, it got more and more exciting.”

She felt challenged to shoot more pictures. Her work has been shown in 11 gallery exhibits and selected as part of the National Geographic online Daily Dozen. Her photographs are part of the "Hear Me Roar" exhibit at the UC Health Women's Center in West Chester.

Kellar has no plans to become a photographer for hire. She shoots real and spontaneous images that evoke beauty, humor, tragedy or wonder. Her photos are shot in natural light and she does very little manipulation in Photoshop.

"I truly love photography," said Kellar. "When the stars align and you take a shot, you can just feel it when you get it right."

Kellar likes making larger prints because they draw viewers into the scene. She gives a lot of thought to selecting the right title for each image. She regards each title as a little poem that adds a layer of meaning. People really seem to respond to the titles.

If you can't visit Ainsley Kellar in her gallery in Brazee Street Studios, you can view her portfolio on Red Bubble, an online community and marketplace for artists, designers and photographers.

Although Kellar's original dream of being an actress didn't work out, she is happy to be working as a visual artist.

“I am glad things worked out they way they did. I’m glad to be the one behind the camera who puts it all together.” said Kellar. “I like to be the person who sees projects through from start to finish."

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