Faculty of the Fortnight: Daniel Kelly

New SNC digital arts teacher helps oversee creative endeavors at SNC


This past summer Kelly spent ten days boat camping on Lake Tahoe.

Ryland West, Contributor

Navigating the California surf, hosting face-melting rock concerts, formulating his own coffee, driving trucks, and for a brief stint, nursing—these are just a few of the avocations that have led soft-spoken professor Daniel Robert Kelly to his current position teaching photography and videography at Sierra Nevada College.

Kelly grew up in Volcano, California, a town of just 100 people. “It was there that I shot my first motion picture film,” Kelly said. “At about age 12, I helped make a Western as part of an art workshop in town, and later, when I was about 14, some friends and I made a Vietnam A-Team style movie complete with a fight scene staged on a moving van and homemade pyrotechnic flashbacks.”

Today, Kelly volunteers much of his time overseeing creative endeavors at SNC and beyond. “The projects I like the most are collaborative, volunteer, and student-run,” Kelly said. He has helped to start up many student-directed projects, including underground film festivals in Milwaukee and a radio club in India, which still functions today.

“The big project at SNC right now is the Tahoe Underground Film Festival,” Kelly said. “It’s not just a Core 101 class. There’s a group of students that belong to the film club. They’re putting on a two-day festival with 2,366 submissions from 97 different countries showing an array of work. It’s totally built around real world experience.”

Kelly also has his hand in several programs for the SNC art department. Recently he has helped artist Steve Lambert with the creation of the Co-op Bar as a way of funding the Tahoe Underground Film Festival. Located downstairs in the Holman Arts and Media Center, the

Co-op Bar is now the campus hotspot for coffee and scones. It’s considered by many as a haven to hang out and collaborate with other artists, regardless of the medium. Kelly says he likes to “build up these kinds of entities to fulfill a need in the community, then let the community organically take it over.”

Despite all of his community involvements, Kelly is often seen as someone who keeps to himself. “Sometimes people think I’m kind of grumpy, but it’s mostly because I’m quiet,” he said. “The truth is, I really like student work. It’s really fantastic to see somebody find his or her voice in a medium. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s beautiful,” Kelly said.

Kelly also just finished making a movie that was shot completely on a homemade pinhole camera. “The movie is made by projecting the movie outward, which is different than video projections. Everywhere you project this will be different, compared to projecting digital, which is made to be consistent.” His movie, which is now premiering in New York, can never be recreated digitally. “Shooting a frame digitally, every pixel will be constructed the same, in the same place. While shooting on film, light reacts differently to the photons on the film, so no slide will ever be the same.”

Kelly constantly experiments with new techniques, creating new forms of art. “My work is very conceptual. I try to work with materials in ways only those materials can do,” he said. Once he created a “many-pinhole camera” that enabled him to manually shoot a scene in a manner similar to the way the director filmed the speeding bullets in the film “The Matrix.” He describes it as “a way of shooting an entire roll of film for one instance.” He has also successfully stacked film slides for depth in a single exposure and developed film completely with coffee. Kelly plans to keep pushing the limits on the use of conceptual mediums and bring his experimental thinking to the classrooms at SNC.