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[Photography] @lifeofriley

[Kelp Journal] Can you talk about why you chose photography? What does this form provide that other media does not?

[@lifeofriley] I’m a writer and a photographer. For the past two years I’ve been working on a memoir. It’s a very challenging project, especially the emotional drain. When I take breaks from writing, at times really long breaks, I turn to photography to tell stories. I love the immediacy of photography. I appreciate the efficacy of storytelling in one shot or a series of shots. There’s an energy and excitement in capturing detail, emotion, movement in that one tiny moment. I equate it to that one gem of a sentence savored in a piece of writing.

[Kelp Journal] What do you look for when framing a shot? What draws you to the pictures you take?

[@lifeofriley] I look for depth; I’m really drawn to that when shooting. I want to pull something out of each layer to try and create a dynamic image that arouses a different meaning and emotion for everyone who sees it.

[Kelp Journal] Should photographers be cognizant of the narrative they create of a place or time when exhibiting photos?

[@lifeofriley] I think of things like that even more so now that we’re living through the COVID pandemic. I’ve been taking photos of what I see from my balcony, my windows, my car window, and when I’m out on a walk and then sharing those as part of an Instagram photo series, Rear Window. I’m very aware of telling the story playing out in front of us all in the most delicate and respectful way possible. For me it’s the only way I can be comfortable documenting these surreal times.

[Kelp Journal] How has the digital age affected photography?

[@lifeofriley] The entire world creates art together, and that’s truly an amazing thing. Everyone is a photographer. An iPhone proves to be all you need to capture awe-inspiring images. When I’m shooting, I keep that in the back of my mind. The last thing I want to do is capture the same photograph fifty other people captured. I dig deeper, scratching away at the surface in an effort to see beyond what appears directly in front of me.

[Kelp Journal] Are there any photographers that have influenced your work?

[@lifeofriley] So many artists, not just photographers, inspire me and my work. Because of the digital age, Instagram introduces me to even more artists I may have never known. That’s definitely a positive. I love Annie Leibovitz, reading one of her books right now, Dorothea Lange, and Chris Burkard, all true storytellers. Based in Rockaway Beach, New York, I spend most days, year round, photographing surfers. That’s how Burkard got his start. The amount of work he put into shooting a location or a surfer shows how much actually goes into getting that one magnificent shot--it not only inspires me but pushes me as a creative.

Riley is a self-taught photographer and writer based in Rockaway Beach, New York. After running her social media marketing company for more than a decade, Riley closed the business in 2019 to focus solely on creative endeavors. She is currently at work on a surf photography project featuring New York surfers in and out of the water. You can follow Riley’s photo journey on Instagram @lifeofrileynyc or visit her website to see more from her portfolio at


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