Evans –A two-time breast cancer survivor and photographer with over 48 years of experience, from shooting rodeos and weddings to creating stunning glass art photography.
From traveling the world photographing horses and bull riders to capturing the most memorable wedding moments, photographer Kay Lynn Reilly has witnessed the complete transformation and editing of photography from film (her hand-painted black and white portraits) to the versatility of digital photography.
Originally from Seattle, Washington, Reilly said she graduated from high school in California and entered a junior college, which was free at the time. When she signed up for a college course a few days before school started, she found that all the art classes were full. A guidance counselor told her they had an opening for a photography class, which she ended up loving and earned an associate degree in photography.
“It just happened by accident,” Riley said. “It’s interesting how life works.”
After college, Reilly moved back to Seattle and started working as a wedding photographer for a professional wedding company in 1980. She said she was very busy, photographing weddings every weekend, an average of 50 weddings a year.
For eight years, Riley said the boss of the wedding company saw something in her and put her under his protection. In 1988, she decided to venture out on her own. She then started her own wedding photography company in Seattle 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 crazy over the apparent eye candy photo, which made her think it had to have a market somewhere.
“Once I really started following the rodeo, I fell in love with the way of life, the camaraderie, the athleticism and the grit and majesty,” Riley said. “These athletes compete 100 percent against each other while sincerely cheering each other on.”
Reilly said she photographed rodeos from 1989 to 2006, when she traveled with her young son for Horse and Rider Magazine. She said she was lucky to travel around the world.
“I would shoot rodeos in black and white with a half size camera with square film. I loved every second of it,” says Riley.
Reilly says she started hand-painting her black and white rodeo photos, and the pop of color made the end result very unique.
Reilly, who frequently visits Wyoming, where her son’s father lives, says she enjoys photographing the horses. Twice a year she goes to the Eaton Guest Ranch in Sheridan, Wyoming, where she tracks horses for 100 miles twice a year to photograph them.
Riley has many ties to Utah, including that her parents are from Richfield, and she says she visits central Utah frequently. She enjoys photographing the area and spending time with her family.
“When I turned 18 and had my own car, I started adventuring. Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon and Canyonlands, I’m here whenever I get the chance,” Riley said.
Reilly, who visits about twice a year while also filming weddings in Seattle, said her wedding business began to decline as the recession hit. During this time, she chose to go back to school. Digital photography was also on the rise, and she knew she needed to transition from film to digital.
“Movies are my favorite,” Riley said. “Black and white film. I hated numbers at first. It was a tough transition.”
Reilly studied Art and Visual Technology at Dixie State University. She said she took longer to finish than she expected, including life events like caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s and being diagnosed with breast cancer a second time.
After the initial breast cancer diagnosis and a mastectomy, Riley said things were improving. Nine years later, the same cancer came back from the other side. After chemotherapy, Reilly said, the way she took pictures, and even her way of thinking, changed.
“I still have those creative abilities, but it seems more intuitive than ever. So what I have now as an artist works better,” Riley said.
When she transitioned to a digital camera, Reilly said she took black-and-white photos of her hand-painted, drum scan It turns her original photos into digital files. She also learned how to paint and create in Photoshop.
“I started experimenting with exaggerated colors and fully experienced its healing effects.Using bright colors during my own physical and mental health issues sparked my healing and my passion for creating,” Riley said in her website.
Reilly, who graduated from Dixie State University in 2017, said she is grateful for the education she received, which has had a big impact on her art. She chose not to go back to wedding and portrait photography, but only dabbled in fine art photography, which is her specialty today.
“I’m so grateful to be able to make money at this stage of my life,” Riley said.
Reillys’ photography is currently on display at galleries in southern Utah, including Gallery 873, red canyon co. and Solera Gallery in Springdale.She has also acted Juniper Sky Gallery and female mystery in Tubuck, Arizona.
For more information on Kay Lynn Reilly’s photography visit her website.
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