Tony Kelly (photographer)

Last updated
Tony Kelly
Tony Kelly Portrait.jpg
Dublin, Ireland
OccupationFine Art Photographer

Tony Kelly (born Ireland, 1975) is a fine art photographer and director. Based in Los Angeles, he is known for a cinematic style of photography with a luxury aesthetic and vibrant use of colour.


Early life

Born in Dublin, Kelly began life as a photographer straight from school, covering news stories for local newspapers. His early work attracted the attention of major publishers and, at the age of twenty, he became Independent Newspapers youngest ever press photographer. Assignments to cover conflicts in Rwanda and Afghanistan [1] for Independent Newspapers and, later, News International would shape Kelly's future approach to photography as a medium of storytelling. In 1996, his photo of a kiss between musicians Bono and Liam Gallagher won him global exposure and prompted a change in career. After his next Afghanistan trip, Kelly left the newspaper world to focus on his lifelong passions - fine art and fashion.


Kelly left Dublin for Los Angeles - "a city of pure visual stimulation" - to handle growing demand for his work in the US. By now he was honing his distinctive style in the pages of prestige publications like Vanity Fair, Vogue Paris , GQ, L'Officiel and Cosmopolitan . In 2013, he was commissioned by Playboy Magazine to deliver a series of iconic covers that would revitalise the brand. It was during this period that Kelly began to create the elaborate and extravagant set pieces that are now a signature of his work, producing daring images that blurred the boundaries of art and fashion. By 2015, having achieved international renown for his commercial work, the time had come to distil two decades of creativity into his first limited edition fine art collections. Since the successful launch of his solo career, his credo of "expression without limits" has fuelled his evolution as a collectible fine artist with global appeal.

Kelly has been described as “irreverent and provocative”, [2] "spontaneous and hyper-energetic”. [3] PHOTO magazine said his work "plays with humour and provocation" and that "his flashy style has conquered the world of fashion". [4] Paul Solomons, Creative Director of British GQ and GQ Style magazine, described him saying “(Kelly) has carved out a distinctive style in an age where everyone seems to believe they can be photographers. He brings the pages of every publication he shoots for to life. He is a brave photographer not afraid to push directors and the talent. To say that Tony Kelly is one of a kind is an understatement.” [1] In the words of Marco Finazzi, Art Director of Vanity Fair, “When you need colour, irony and humor, he is the first name that comes to mind. Think big, think Tony Kelly!” [1]

Fine art

Kelly's artworks amplify the visual language that he honed as a photographer for luxury publications. Predominantly shot in bright sunlight, they are instantly recognisable by their dynamic crops, saturated colours and striking contrast. Guided by his philosophy that original art can only be produced by taking risks, Kelly purposely seeks to defy boundaries, stopping at nothing to bring his creative ideas to life. Meticulously styled and rehearsed, his work revels in the excess of aspiration, representing it with wit and imagination in bold and memorable images.

Now established as a collectible artist, Kelly has exhibited in cities across the US and Europe. In November 2019, he unveiled his new collection at Preiss Fine Arts, Vienna in an exhibition entitled "A Colorful Mind". The new collection spans eleven pieces, shot in locations ranging from Hollywood and Miami Beach to the ski slopes of Val d'Isere. Kelly takes his subversion of iconography to new heights to create a striking series of fine art prints.

Commercial work

Kelly's unique style of fine art photography and fluency in the visual language of advertising continues to attract commissions from major luxury brands and expose his work to wider audiences. Most recently, his team traveled to Hawaii to shoot the Spectacles campaign for Snap Inc. Other notable clients include Skyy Vodka (for their 25th anniversary campaign Kelly starred in one of his own images), Estee Lauder, BMW, Ilmakiage and Steve Madden. Kelly's ability to create a smile in the mind gives his work universal resonance, whether it is displayed in private collections or on public billboards from Times Square to Sunset Boulevard.


In 2014, Kelly released his first self-published coffee table book titled Tony's Toys. Kelly chose the self-publishing route to sidestep the constraints of commercial publishing, allowing him to reflect his signature level of extravagance – right down to the hand stitched pages. The book is limited to a release of 900 copies + 100 special edition copies. [5] Described by Blink magazine as "ground breaking for both its innovative layout, dimensions and the scale of the images presented, this limited edition piece cements Kelly's position as one of the most original and provocative photographers of our time". [6] His second book "Taken! Entertaining Nudes by Tony Kelly" was released in September 2016 by teNeues and distributed worldwide. Maxim hailed it as "the most entertaining photo book you'll ever see", a "showcase of some of his strongest - and sexiest - work to date". [7]


In 2017 Kelly won Clio Awards recognition for his eye-catching print campaign to advertise the US TV series Claws. His growing stature as an international image maker won him the Monaco Influencer Awards (Visual Arts category) in 2019.

Related Research Articles

Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work be both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Photojournalists create pictures that contribute to the news media, and help communities connect with one other. Photojournalists must be well informed and knowledgeable about events happening right outside their door. They deliver news in a creative format that is not only informative, but also entertaining.

Ryan McGinley is an American photographer living in New York City. McGinley began making photographs in 1998. In 2003, at the age of 25, he was one of the youngest artists to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He was also named Photographer of the Year in 2003 by American Photo Magazine. In 2007, McGinley was awarded the Young Photographer Infinity Award by the International Center of Photography. In 2009, he was honored at The Young Collectors Council's Artists Ball at the Guggenheim Museum. A 2014 GQ article declared McGinley, "the most important photographer in America."

Fine-art photography Genre of photography

Fine-art photography is photography created in line with the vision of the photographer as artist, using photography as a medium for creative expression. The goal of fine-art photography is to express an idea, a message, or an emotion. This stands in contrast to representational photography, such as photojournalism, which provides a documentary visual account of specific subjects and events, literally representing objective reality rather than the subjective intent of the photographer; and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products, or services.

Mario Testino

Mario Eduardo Testino Silva OBE HonFRPS is a Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer. His work has featured internationally in magazines such as Vogue, V Magazine,Vanity Fair and GQ. He has also created images for brands such as Gucci, Burberry, Versace, Michael Kors, Chanel, Stuart Weitzman, Carolina Herrera and Estée Lauder.

Matthew Rolston

Matthew Russell Rolston is an American artist, photographer, director and creative director. He is known for his signature lighting techniques and detailed approach to art direction and design and has been repeatedly identified throughout his career with the revival and modern expression of Hollywood glamour.

Guy Bourdin, was a French artist and fashion photographer known for his provocative images. From 1955, Bourdin worked mostly with Vogue as well as other publications including Harper's Bazaar. He shot ad campaigns for Chanel, Charles Jourdan, Pentax and Bloomingdale's.

Sacha Dean Bïyan is a photographer, photojournalist, filmmaker and author best known for his photography, which ranges from fashion and advertising to portraits of indigenous cultures around the world.

Howard Schatz is an American photographer.

Walter Chin is a fashion and celebrity photographer of Chinese descent who currently lives and works in New York City, U.S.

Nude photography Photography of the naked human body.

Nude photography is the creation of any photograph which contains an image of a nude or semi-nude person, or an image suggestive of nudity. Nude photography is undertaken for a variety of purposes, including educational uses, commercial applications and artistic creations. The exhibition or publication of nude photographs may be controversial, more so in some cultures or countries than in others, and especially if the subject is a minor.

Jerry Avenaim American photographer

Jerry Avenaim is an American photographer best known for his fashion and celebrity images.

Frank De Mulder

Frank De Mulder is a Belgian Photographer.

Chen Man is a Chinese visual artist. Her medium includes photography, graphic design, cinematography, and digital art.

Fine art nude photography is a genre of fine-art photography which depicts the nude human body with an emphasis on form, composition, emotional content, and other aesthetic qualities. The nude has been a prominent subject of photography since its invention, and played an important role in establishing photography as a fine art medium. The distinction between fine art photography and other subgenres is not absolute, but there are certain defining characteristics.

Thomas Rusch is a German photographer living in Berlin, Hamburg and Paris.

Robert Farber (photographer) American photographer and lecturer

Robert Farber is an American photographer and lecturer known for his work with nudes, fashion, landscapes and still lives. He has published eleven books of original collections that have sold over half-a-million copies, four of them revised into later editions. He continues to exhibit classic and new work worldwide.

Brian Bowen Smith

Brian Bowen Smith is an American commercial and fine-art photographer known for his celebrity portraits. He was mentored by Herb Ritts who helped him discover his own personal photographic style.

Ren Hang was a Chinese photographer and poet.

Michael A. Russ

Michael Andreas Russ is an American photographer, photo designer and film director. In reference to his artistic cooperation Swordfishtrombones album cover production, singer Tom Waits commented on Russ' work: “His approach to photography is with the eyes of a painter working with light. This technique is what drew me to Michael’s work in the beginning”.

Lakin Ogunbanwo is a Nigerian fashion photographer also known for his expression of sulky visuals.


  1. 1 2 3 "Bio". TONY KELLY. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
  2. GQ España, Edition 134, June 2008, P.26
  3. Nathalie Cattaruzza, 2008. PHOTO magazine, Edition 447, March 2008, P.58
  4. Julie Hamaide, 2009. PHOTO magazine, Edition 461, July/August 2009, P.68
  5. "Tonys Toys Photobook". TONY KELLY. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  6. Blink Magazine, Issue 39, January 2015
  7. Maxim Magazine, September 2016