Interview: Holly Kellner - Bringing Back The Art In Sports Photography

Photo: © Stefan Wilfinger
Holly Kellner is one of the best, if not the best, photographer in Austria. We love his work and passion for capturing the perfect moment so much, that we wanted to share his story.

American Football

The first time I got in contact with football was in 2000. In Vienna we have a little guide for kids to try out different sports in their summer-vacation and so I tried flag football together with my younger brother, cousin and cousine. We, 4 kids (I am the oldest one and my cousin is the youngest, he is only 2 years younger than me) soon started to play flag football at the Wolves, a part oft he Vienna flag football program called Vikiddy. After some months we decided to go to the Vikings Tryout and so the 4 of us ended up being a Viking. 

I played 3 years as DE and DT, and then had to stop playing it because of big elbow injury. My brother still plays and is DB at the Raiffeisen Vikings Team 1 and my cousin played QB at the Vikings Ladies team. She is also the QB of Austrians Flag football National Team (3-times Europe Champion).

Getting into photography

Photo: Holly Kellner
Soon after I had to stop playing football I looked for a new hobby and so I bought a camera. Because I missed playing football I took my camera and started to photograph American Football, mostly the guys I played with. I think I was 15 years old when I first photographed at a Vikings AFL game- it was super exciting. 

I really loved photography and so I decided to go to a photography school called „Die Graphische“ in Vienna. I had 5 years to learn everything about photography. Every time I had the chance to pick a free topic, I shot football - first my team mates were bored but every time I presented a new aspect, told new stories with my pictures and so they liked it too. 

In my final year we had to do a project with a „partner“- where I decided to work one year together with 3 Classmates of mine with the Raiffeisen Vikings. By that time we started the Gridiron Photography page - a facebook site where I still post my football work. 

After finishing school I had my civilian service at the Red Cross/marketing were I had the chance to help the Red Cross a lot by taking photos of their work. 

Since June 2013 I am a photographer and graphic designer for a Vienna magazine called „Unser Wien- Unsere Stadt“.

Most memorable football moment

Photo: Holly Kellner
Special for sure was the World Championship back in 2011, where I had the chance to shoot a world-championship at the age of only 21. 

There, I photographed a lot with a Tilt-Shift lens to show a new aspect of American Football. Out of these shots I made a photo book called „Home field Advantage“. 

But also last season when my younger brother started his first game at the Hohe Warte in Vienna was special for me.

Don'ts

Good question. I really do not like the fact that so many people think that they are a photographer because they own a DSLR camera. Sure there are guys that never studied photography like me and still produce world class work like Herbert Kratky. 

Also a bit annoying is he fact that you can not make a lot of money with football photography in Europe and everybody wants your work for free.

Future

Right now, I'm try to build a good network in Vienna. Networking in photography is one of the most important things to do. My dream is to go to The States and try to live there as a sport-photographer. I can not do that in Austria, because here, our main sport is soccer and I really do not like to shoot soccer. So my plan is to try it in The States , or maybe in Australia, I have been there 3 times, as a photographer. 

Photo: Holly Kellner
But to do that, I want to have a good network here so that I can go back home if my plan fails and jump right back into my photography work here. All that, I would love to do before my 30th birthday - and am getting 24 this summer.

One of the most important things to know about my photography is that I want to tell a story in my pictures. Not like the most press/sport photographers – they just want to have the player with the ball as big as possible looking right into the camera - sure that can be nice but not what I love to do. 

Often I show for instant the RB but also in the background the o-line that blocked the gap open or the QB that throws to a WR and both should be in one picture. But also I like to tell stories from the sideline.

Mia Bajin

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