The Artist's Eye

Photographer Kelsey Henszey captures the details of nature.

Fourteen-year-old photographer Kelsey Henszey’s work celebrates nature. On a stroll through her neighborhood, she finds a leaf etched with frost, and stoops to take a picture. She spots a snail creeping past, and captures its dogged journey.

Her perceptive views of the outdoors turn everyday sights into extraordinary visions. “If you look closely, you’ll see how pretty God’s world is,” remarks the eighth-grader, who attends Briarcrest Christian School. “I love close-up work, exploring things you wouldn’t notice if you walked by.”

The Pickwick Lake area, as well as the woods and gardens near her Collierville home, provide favorite settings. There she can captures the intracacies of insects, flowers, and leaves. Kelsey’s unique shots have earned her lots of fans; even some of the Briarcrest faculty display her work in their offices.

“Everyone wonders how she gets such great pictures with a camera that costs under $100,” says her mom, Jenny Henszey. “But she’s always paid attention to detail.”

Kelsey snaps hundreds of picture each month using her digital point and shoot camera by Sony. She approaches her work as an artist, seizing the moment’s beauty. Yet she’ll also experiment with angle and settings, stooping over one subject or crawling beneath another because, “a flower looks totally different depending on the angle.”

She’ll shoot a scene in light and shadow, raising a tree branch to bring light into a shot. Water is also a favorite subject. She’ll sometimes toss a rock into still water so she can photograph the ripples. Or she’ll pick up a flower and place it among stones of contrasting colors. “People don’t really stop and look at a flower and notice its detail. I want people to feel calm and peaceful when they see my pictures.”

Photography became part of Kelsey’s life two years ago, when she received a camera for Christmas. She went outdoors to explore, and shot a leaf. Since then, her work has evolved. She’s already won several competitions, including two Silver Key awards from the Mid-South Scholastic Art Competition. This year’s show opens January 29th at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

At Briarcrest’s Fine Arts Festival, she won first place in Composition Photography with “Barn Interior” and first place in Outdoor Photography with a photo of a spider web shrouded in water droplets.

The young photographer is lucky to have a supportive mentor. Sloan Cooper, a middle-school art teacher at Briarcrest, helps her enter competitions and challenges her. For a change of pace, he recently asked her to photograph an old, rusted-out engine block. The results wowed him.

“I gave Kelsey an ugly, eight-inch industrial engine block to work with, and she came back with a bank of beautiful images. She uses her eye to box in a one-inch area, makes it look gigantic, and turns it into a full-size poster. She sees things other people don’t see, and turns one thing into a hundred new things.”

“The same techniques I use with nature, I try to apply to different things,” explains Kelsey. “I looked for things about the engine that stood out,” focusing on its holes, curves, and unusual angles. Then, she used black paper as background to highlight the orange metal.

In addition to photography, Kelsey is interested in ceramics and painting, perhaps influenced by her grandmother, Barbara Henszey, who works in ceramics, and grandfather, Dave Furnhas, who shares camera techniques with her.

Academically, she’s a Duke University Talent Identification Program Scholar and has scored high on the practice ACT. When she’s not taking pictures, Kesley enjoys watches movies with her mom, father David, and 10-year-old brother Kyler. She also enjoys boating, wakeboarding, singing in the school choir, and babysitting.  

The Real Scoop:
Locks of Love: Kelsey donated 12-inches of her hair to Locks of Love
Story Teller: She enjoys creative writing 
Favorite Photos: Kelsey loves her shots of a snail and a spider web
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