IVINS —A two-time breast cancer survivor and photographer with more than 48 years of experience went from shooting rodeos and weddings to creating stunning art photography printed on glass.
From traveling the world photographing horses and bull riders to capturing the most memorable wedding moments, photographer Kay Lynn Reilly has seen the full transition that photography has taken from film, where she hand-painted her black and white portraits, to the versatility of digital photography and editing.
Originally from Seattle, Washington, Reilly said she graduated from high school in California and then went on to a junior college, which was free to attend at the time. When she signed up for college courses just a few days before the semester started, she found that all the art classes were already full. A guidance counselor told her that they had openings for photography classes, which she ended up loving and resulted in her obtaining an Associate Degree in photography.
“It sort of just happened by chance,” Reilly said. “It’s interesting how life works that way.”
After college, Reilly moved back to Seattle and began working as a wedding photographer for a specialty wedding business in 1980. She said she was extremely busy, photographing weddings every weekend and averaging 50 weddings a year.
For eight years, Reilly said the owner of the wedding business saw something in her and took her under his wing. In 1988, she made the decision to venture out on her own. She then created her own wedding photography business in Seattle, which she did until 2002.
Reilly said she took her first rodeo photo in 1989. She hand-painted the photo and gave it to a friend at a birthday party. She said 39 women went nuts over the photo for the obvious eye candy and that made her think there had to be a market for it somewhere.
“Once I really started following rodeo, I fell in love with the lifestyle, the camaraderie, the athleticism and the grit and grandeur,” Reilly said. “These athletes 100% competed with one another and genuinely cheered each other on at the same moment.”
Reilly said she shot rodeo photography from 1989 to 2006, where she traveled with her young son, shooting photos for Horse and Rider Magazine. She said she was fortunate enough to travel to many places all over the world.
“I would shoot the rodeos with black and white film with a big two-and-a-quarter camera with square film. I loved every second of it,” Reilly said.
Reilly said she started hand-painting her black and white rodeo photos, with pops of color that made the end result very unique.
Visiting Wyoming frequently, where her son’s father lived, Reilly said she loved photographing the horses. She went to Eaton’s Guest Ranch twice a year in Sheridan, Wyoming, where she photographed the horses by trailing them for 100 miles twice a year.
With many ties to Utah, including both her parents being from Richfield, Reilly said she visited central Utah regularly. She enjoyed photographing the area and spending time with her family.
“As soon as I turned 18 and had a car of my own, I ventured all over. Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon and Canyonlands, every chance I had I’d come down here,” Reilly said.
Visiting about twice a year while still shooting weddings in Seattle, Reilly said that as a recession hit, her wedding business started declining. During this time, she thing to go back to school. Digital photography was also on the rise and she knew she needed to make the transition from film to digital.
“Film was my thing,” Reilly said. “Black and white film. I hated digital at first. It was a difficult transition.”
Reilly studied Art and Visual Technology at Dixie State. She said it took her longer than she expected to finish, with life events such as caring for her mother who had Alzheimer’s and getting a breast cancer diagnosis for the second time.
After an initial breast cancer diagnosis and a single mastectomy, Reilly said things were looking up. Nine years later, the same cancer came back on the other side. Reilly said after chemo, the way she photographed and even the way she thought changed.
“I still have those creative abilities but it seems that it’s more intuitive than it ever has been. So what I have now works better as an artist,” Reilly said.
As she transitioned to digital, Reilly said she took her hand-painted black and white photography and drum scanned it, allowing her original prints to be turned into digital files. She also learned how to paint and create in Photoshop.
“I began to experiment with exaggerated color and fully experienced its therapeutic effects. Working with bright colors during my own mental and physical health issues, inspired my healing as well as my passion to create,” Reilly said on her website.
Graduating from Dixie State in 2017, Reilly said she is grateful for the education she received and that it has made a big difference in her art. She chose not to go back to wedding and portrait photography but instead ventured into art photography only, which is what she specializes in today.
“I’m so amazingly grateful to be making money doing this at this point in my life,” Reilly said.
Reillys’ photography is currently featured in galleries around Southern Utah, including Gallery 873, Red Canyon Company and Sorella Gallery in Springdale. She has also been featured in the Juniper Sky Gallery and the Mystical Feminine in Tubac, Arizona.
For more information on Kay Lynn Reilly Photography, visit her website.
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