Growing up, I observed the way people reacted to addiction. I learned very young the truth that no one is all good or all bad. I had to see and understand that even the woman that was, by nature, my first love was capable of hurting herself and others – deeply. Did this make her a bad person? Absolutely not. As a boy, it was confusing to see both sides of a human so starkly. The days of detox and all that entails, contrasted by our many conversations of love, grace, and hope. I came to the conclusion that everyone had a place inside them spared from their vices. Like a pocket of light lost in the dark. You just had to dig deep enough to find it.
I was very close with my Mom up until the day she died when I was 21. Her loving spirit shaped me, her courage challenged me, and her voice for justice infected me. She always told me I’d make a great photojournalist – but never a war photographer. I could never promise that. She showed me that there is story behind everything. Everything. When she died, my world lost its color and I saw people around me for who they truly were. No more would I participate in mediocre love and a settled life. I would begin to live in such a way that honored people’s stories by listening, acknowledging, and trying my best to understand. I had to tell stories.
After four years of weddings and basic portrait sessions, I have switched full time to creating photo documentaries. At 22, I feel incredibly behind with all the stories that have immersed this world – it’s time to get to work. If you (or someone you know) have a story you want told, I would love to hear from you. In this season, I am only shooting black and white but am willing to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. I am always willing to hear out a proposal!
Matthew W. Kennelly