Kelly A. Burkhardt’s “Atomic Age”

The out filmmaker opens her first solo photography show this Friday

Part street photography and part stylized digital imagery, “Atomic Age” opens this Friday (May 4) at Ven & Vaida Gallery. It’s the first solo photography exhibit by out filmmaker Kelly A. Burkhardt, the programmer for Philadelphia Qfest, as well as an award-winning filmmaker and member of the Midwives Collective & Gallery.

We talked to the artist – who’s been living between Philadelphia and New York thanks to her role as vice president of operations for TLA Releasing – about her influences. The vibrant images in this recent show have been shaped by everything from David LaChapelle to her extensive travels around the world to London, Florence and Berlin. She also gives us the low down on another upcoming show – this time for Phreak N Queer Arts Festival – in August.

What’s the inspiration for “Atomic Age?”

It’s hard to answer that question because this show grew organically, actually. I presented Butch Cordora, who is the new curator at Ven & Vaida, multiple images from the last 10 years and he selected the images for the show. And I love what was chosen! “Atomic Age” is a collection of some street photography and portraits, so the inspiration really runs the gamut, but they all have a consistent retro look and feel – which is something that I am always drawn to as an artist.

What retro subjects are you focusing on this time around?

Portrait of the filmmaker as artist (photo by Kathy McLean)

I am happy to say that the original four enlarged photographs that deal with depression (as seen in the Midwives Collective show “Pendulum” in February 2011) will be on display again. There is also a portrait of toys, which are all from my childhood. But all in all “Atomic Age” is simply about snapshots of life.

How many new works can we expect?

Eight new pieces that are all oversize prints.

What draws you to subjects like childhood toys or a street scene?

I think first and foremost is being able to express my emotions. Whether a picture came from a planned photo shoot or while being a tourist, I can look at every shot I took and tell you how I felt at that time. What’s also important is pushing people’s comfort zones – mine, too. And that could mean about sex or death or just simply a particular color.

How does your background in film impact your still photography these days?

It’s all about telling a story, but the challenge is being able to do it in one single frame. Also, I love finding and focusing on whatever is important within each picture. I like experimenting with similar techniques like lighting, depth of field and exposure to really draw out the subject matter.

Are there LGBT or queer themes to the images?

There are a couple of prints that have an LGBT theme, like “Lover’s Quarrel,” and the suggestive nature of “Han Solo’s Ass,” but overall there isn’t a queer theme to my show – except me.

“Atomic Age,” May 4 – May 30, Ven & Vaida Gallery, 18 S. 3rd St.; opening reception is Friday, May 4, 6 p.m.- 9 p.m.; artist talk is May 24.