A deal, or a steal?

By Kelli Chillson

Kelli Chillson Photography, $50, 116 pages

She was sitting in a white 10×10 selling a book with a black cover; a collection of black and white photographs depicting biker culture. Discovering that she had just picked up this first run from the printer, a tiny light flashed in my sun-baked consciousness, reflex action kicked in, and I asked if it had been reviewed. So here it is, a Thunder Press world-premier review of Kelli Chillson’s book, Captured on Film.

It’s an art book, printed on nice glossy paper with some pages deliberately left blank. All are printed in black and the little text that does exist, primarily on the title and dedication pages, is in white. There’s never more than one photo on a page and often that one photo sneaks across the binding to continue on the opposing one. Sometimes the opposing page is simply a blank, black canvas; thus forcing your eye to focus on the one image being presented. This is a self-published volume and the layout is hers. Kudos to Chillson for accomplishing what few production editors or book designers would endeavor to do—“wasting” a page simply for aesthetic impact.

These photos, taken over a seven-year span, are accurate depictions of a slice of biker culture. Some of the portrait shots are especially crisp, capturing personalities in a fraction of a second, while others are slightly out-of-focus to simulate the “soft-focus” lenses used during the late 19th century. The former works for me; the latter doesn’t. There are road shots, bike details, tits and ass. Some reflect sensuality and others show that nudity isn’t about sexuality at all. There are visual reflections and mental ones printed on these glossy pages and as a professional photographer, my critique of individual shots would be nothing more than another type of reflection. As a biker, my response is simply based on personal biases and past experiences so some images naturally strike a chord while others do nothing.

So, is this a good book or not? Art should make you feel things and some of these photos have evoked such for me. I believe that accomplished art is based on technique and control of the medium, and some of these photos exhibit considerable skill. A few of the people shown in this book I’ve met; a few I’d like to. In truth, I don’t know how to rate it as a reviewer, but I’m glad I own a copy. The way I figure it, at $50 a copy for a limited-run publication it’s a deal, but as art it’s a steal.


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