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Kelly Koval


Kelly Koval

Steven Stubblefield

Kelly Koval is the woman behind the lens of the the “Gitchr’ Portrit” photo essay. With a simple backdrop she captured the faces of DIO in a raw and magical way. Kelly is also an accomplished musician, check out one of her songs at the end of the interview. We caught up with Kelly to ask about the project and she provided us with eloquent responses and a feeling of excitement for what’s coming this year. 

What do you like best about shooting something like DIO fest?

Rain or shine, sleep deprived or totally jazzed, intoxicated, or face painted – People are out, being themselves. Friends, partners, exes, kin, artists, musicians, the young, the older, and some really wild ones. All in the same place – it’s a feelings frenzy, and there’s more than plenty to see.

Do you have a favorite image you captured last year?

Oh my. Well, there are a handful that hit home pretty hard. Where the lighting is right, focus is clear, and the portraitee is carefree/full enough to give me a good ol’ look. But no picture is as good in isolation as it is when it’s with its peers. Straight up.

How did you get inspired to create the “Gitchr’ Portrit” photo essay?

Perhaps, most simply, the DIO momentum. A good majority of people I know and love are working their hot bods off to make this festival happen. There’s so much dedication, determination, and celebration that seemed like it just really deserved to rest in pictures. History of these festivities will, regardless of photos, certainly not be forgotten. And these portraits definitely do not capture all the grunt work that happened all year long, but they sure do give us a sneak peek into the weekend snippet where everything collides. The people, the eyes, really let us know what’s up.

As far as the title, well Mr. Paul Hempstead thought that up. My only direction was “Can you paint me a sign? Here’s a slab of wood and some paint.” Not sure I could have asked for anything better. Nailed it right on the head.

Favorite part about shooting photos?

The nervous energy. And the boldness. The colors, emotions, familiarities, and oddities. Humans in good lighting.

I’m a bit of an introvert, so it was interesting to invite and be invited to interact with people in such an intimate way. Sure, the backdrop wall was out in the open and nearly in the center of DIO Fest – but there’s a pretty big slice of privacy shared between a subject and the camera shooting him or her. I was lucky enough to hit the trigger.

What kind of camera do you use?

In this case, exclusively an old Olympus 35 SP. A 35mm film camera. I inherited it from my Grandfather, David Koval, after he was no longer physically around to teach me how to use it. The learning process has been long and tremendous. And still is. I’d say that’s why some of the photos of the series feel pretty raw.

With wild focus and exposure. Practice certainly makes us more precise. In a big way. Plus, after his portrait, Jacob Troester (a fellow friend and photographer)  peeked through my lens and easily introduced me to a focus grid my camera provides that I was utterly blind to. Such an epiphany! Or just another grand example of DIO-ing at DIO Fest.

How do you choose when to snap the photo?

Using film feels more finite. Like I want to be as careful as possible. Not to mess anything up. Take a picture and instantly it’s set in stone, in film.

Can’t be deleted with the click of a button. It is what it is. So when an opportunity comes along to, basically, preserve life in a photo,  I want to make sure I get it as right as I can. You know, let me show you how I see things. But man, I’m nowhere near perfect at this. I just do the best I can.

I guess I know I’m close when what I see through the lens (scenery, layout, and subject matter) feels really really alive – Is that cheesy? A corny cheese ball? It’s true though – that’s when I snap the photo.

Anything else you’d like to add?

What more can I say but Thank You to all the DIO Fest-ers who shared a little bit of themselves. “Git’n yer portrit” was an ultimate honor. The big picture is grand beyond words.

Kelly shreds too... here's one of her music videos featuring a bunch of DIO Family musicians...