About the Photographer
US resident, b. 1950, Belfast, Ireland
The visual history of women is an incomplete record. If we don't make a record of our lives it's as if we didn't exist. — Angela Kelly, July 1987
Changing Chicago was launched in 1987 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the discovery of photography and the 50th anniversary of the Farm Security Administration documentary project. The year-long project commissioned 33 documentary photographers, and was organized with the support of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago Historical Society, and the Chicago Office of Fine Arts, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center. In the spring of 1989 each institution simultaneously mounted exhibitions based on different facets of the project. The work in the Museum of Contemporary Photography's permanent collection represents the photographs it exhibited.
Angela Kelly's contribution to Changing Chicago was work from her Chrysalis series: a body of work shot in 1986 and 1987 at the Chrysalis Learning Center in Chicago, a non-residential educational facility for girls aged fifteen to eighteen which closed suddenly in 1987. The end of the Chrysalis Learning Center was not quite the end of the project, though. "My relationship with these women developed over a period of two years, and I have continued to photograph a few of them since the school closed," Kelly says. She adds, "Their input has been crucial in terms of how I have represented them and recorded this small part of their history." Her subjects are complex, and Kelly strives to make pictures that do not reduce them to either victims or heroines. As such, she photographs the same person multiple times in various contexts, and hopes that viewers have the chance to see not just a single picture but a full body of work.
In 1984 the Museum of Contemporary Photography invited 35 photographers to interpret Chicago's Grant Park over the course of one year. At the time, Kelly was interested in interpreting the vernacular image. "I was interested in looking at Grant Park, less through its unique landscape design or even its use, rather in how its public signage disrupted commonly held notions of the pictorial, especially related to beauty in the landscape," she says of her untitled picture of Grant Park. She continues, "The park is a manufactured landscape and so this sign is as part of the landscape as any purposely designed element."
Angela Mary Kelly was born in 1950 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She earned a diploma in education from Mary Ward College, University of Nottingham, England (1972); a BA in creative photography from Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham (1975); and an MA in photography from Columbia College Chicago (1987). The Arts Council of Great Britain awarded her grants in 1977 and 1978, followed by a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1987, and Illinois Arts Council Grants in 1988 and 1990. The Museum of Contemporary Photography included Kelly's work in the exhibitions Spaces for the Self: The Symbolic Imagery of Place (1995), Likeness, Expression, and Character: Presence in Portraits (1990), and the photo-installation Chrysalis, Changing Chicago (1989). Her work is part of the permanent collections of such institutions as The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Art Instiute of Chicago, Chicago Historical Society, and Viewpoint Gallery, Salford Museum of Art, England. She is an associate professor in the Rochester Institute of Technology's School of Photographic Arts & Sciences.