Tony Kelly: Happiness is at Home on Sunset Boulevard
Mr. Kelly, what makes you happy?
A peaceful mind is what makes me happy on a personal level. Ten years ago, the answer would have been different. Maybe a nice car or a nice watch. As we grow as individuals, we realize that real happiness comes from something my mother used to say. She goes to sleep at night and she’s very peaceful. She didn’t need to worry about financial issues or conflicts.
What does luck mean to you?
I think there are two aspects: You can win the lottery. In order to win the lottery, you have to play the lottery. You can’t win the lottery without buying the ticket. I am walking or driving to the store to buy the ticket. So by you making the effort, when you put yourself in the position to activate luck, you benefit from the luck you have. But you have to do your part. The lottery is a metaphor for life. And I think that luck comes when you kind of put yourself in the position to be lucky. And that comes from hard work. Does that make sense?
Yes, that sounds a bit like the American Dream.
Well, I’m Irish.
Yes, you are. But there must have been a reason to move to LA.
Yeah, that’s quite a valid point. The American thing is that you do your work and get a reward. But my perspective is more on a human level. There is a saying: “Hard work beats talent every day that talent is not working hard.” And I think luck comes into this, especially if you look at it from the perspective of an artist. The artistic process comes from meeting the right people or something happens at the right time, but I’ve always put myself out there. Luck comes when you’re active.
»I am a patron of the Boulevard.«
Which places in Los Angeles do you associate with especially happy moments?
Helmut Newton is one of my absolute main inspirations. I’ve looked at every picture I found by him. And I had dinner at his house with his wife to learn more about him. He said that you should never have to go more than a mile from your hotel to find the perfect spot. And I applied that to my house in Los Angeles, because I see it as living in a hotel in Los Angeles although I don’t. You know Los Angeles is like a holiday video most of the time. It’s like an artist’s dream.
So you can find the perfect spot at every corner?
Some days I need to create an image and I may not have a location in mind and I just go walking. You know I live just off Sunset Boulevard and I’ve never had the situation that Sunset Boulevard didn’t deliver the location. It really is my studio. Los Angeles is my studio and Sunset Boulevard is the main platform. So many corners, car parks, hotels, rooftops, back alleys, gardens, hedges, palm trees – it really is my favorite place in the world to take pictures.
And where do you go when you are not taking photos?
I shoot on Sunset Boulevard and I also socialize on Sunset Boulevard. I go to three places and only three places in my personal life: I go to Chateau Marmont, where my friend Jason Pelsey plays the piano. And he’s also my piano teacher, because I study piano three days a week. It is really important to me. So Jason plays at Chateau three days a week and I practice with him three days a week. So we see each other nearly every day. And I also go to Sunset Tower. So I am a patron of the Boulevard.