Kielinski Photography in Germantown is a husband-and-wife team whose work seems born of an ability to coax their own hearts, and that of their subjects, into the picture.
Enough of one’s aura goes into a photograph that it takes time to recover, some spiritualists say. Other people claim that portraits reveal more about the photographer’s compassion than the subject’s face. And then there are photographers like Kyle and Linette Kielinski, of Kielinski Photography, 6139 Germantown Ave. in Germantown, a husband-and-wife team whose work seems born of an ability to coax their own hearts, and that of their subjects, into the picture.
Linette, 43, raised in West Chester, Pa, got an early start in photography. “My father introduced me to the darkroom when I was 9,” she says. “It was so much fun to develop a picture, to enlarge it, the whole process. My father, who is 95 now, was a bricklayer, an engineer and a gardener. He did things with his hands. I inherited that from him. My mother, who’s from Puerto Rico, gave me a good work ethic.”
Linette enjoys knitting and sewing, and her mother tried to steer her away from a career in photography. “You’ll never get a job,” she used to tell Linette, who earned a B.S. in photography from Drexel University in 2000.
On the other hand, Linette has her mother’s gift of “being very social,” a big help in getting acquainted with people she photographs. “I’m nosy, I like learning about people’s lives,” she says. She’s done photography for Grid, Philadelphia Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and Real Woman. She garnered a Keystone Award for Photojournalism in 2004 for her work with Montgomery County Newspapers.
Kyle, 45, grew up in King of Prussia and Paoli. His father was an architect, and his mother was a journalist. “I use space to tell visual stories,” he said. “For instance, I shot photos for a hospital that had begun a service where patients brought into the ER received physical therapy immediately. The shots use the red ER sign to convey urgency, and I took the pictures at dusk so that oncoming darkness establishes the mood. I like lighting scenes in interesting ways, making all the elements work together.”
Kyle worked for 20 years with an allied health publisher. “I got to travel: Florida, New England, Texas and California. I carried a backpack with 40 pounds of equipment. I loved it.”
Kyle and Linette met at Drexel as sophomores in 1998, and they were married in 2006. “I got pregnant right away,” Linette said. “I stayed home with the boys [Carver, 14, and Ronin,11], but I kept doing photography. Sometimes I was the second shooter at weddings, the photographer who does candid shots.”
In 2017, Linette and Kyle launched Kielinski Photographers with a studio near their home. Their portfolio includes business, fitness and Germantown sites like the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion, two blocks from their studio. Faces of every imaginable color, expressing the whole palette of human emotions, form a key part of their work. “In 2019, Philadelphia Magazine had us shoot 38 young movers and shakers for 'The New Look of Power.' It featured people like State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.”
Another project involved doing promotional portraits for local musicians who won a contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Jazz Project. The distinctive arches in the Divine Lorraine Hotel’s lobby set off each musician. In June of 2019, Kyle and Linette did a marathon shoot as volunteer photographers for the GREEN Program, an experiential education program focused sustainable development. The event, held at the Cherry Street pier, offered a free headshot for young professionals.. “We set up shop with the Benjamin Franklin Bridge as a great backdrop,” Linette said. “We had a few minutes with each person. It was like speed-dating.”
They’ve done shoots together with a different emotional tone. “Linette got an assignment from Real Woman to photograph Sara Cooper, who had ALS, a neurodegenerative disease,” Kyle said. “I’d spent years around sick people doing my allied health work, so I went along.” He thought he might “suggest structural elements that could heighten the story.”
“I was a little nervous,” Linette said. “I knew how important the story was. The subject matter was so heavy that I found myself hiding my tears behind the camera.”
COVID-19 brought the Kielinskis useful downtime. “Every shoot that we had scheduled was put on indefinite hold, but it gave us a chance to prepare promotional materials,” Kyle said, “but we’re lucky. Assignments have come roaring back.”
For more information, visit www.kielinski.com
Ed. Note: An earlier version of this story was titled "Mt. Airy pair coaxes heart and soul into their photos."