As part of our mission to grow women’s BMX, we also want to help by building the community of women who are behind the lens too; so today, we’re featuring a woman in media. Get to know Chelsea Carbonell (Bruce) from Cleveland, Ohio and how she got into photography and shooting BMX.
How were you first introduced to the world of photography? I’ve been a photographer for a very long time but I was introduced to photographing BMX in 2018 when I met Nick. My passion for photography stems from just capturing people in their best moments, and for Nick that is often on the bike. If I wanted to catch Nick smiling and being his truest self, I had to learn to shoot his riding – which was honestly a wild ride. I have a distinct way that I shoot – free, uninterrupted, and unplanned. Nick is the opposite, he wants his riding photos to be structured, perfect, and polished. This is honestly one of the only things we really butt heads about. Too often people have seen us bickering over shooting photos at the skatepark (lol) but I think it’s made me a better photographer to learn to bend. I acknowledge shooting BMX is an art in and of itself so Nick had a lot to teach me and from it came an honest love for shooting riding.
How did you find your niche? I’ve had my business for 10 years! I specialize in natural light portraits; weddings, families, and couples. I shoot in a very lifestyle, photo-journalist way where I try to capture real life through photos. It is truly the most joyful job where I spend people’s best moments with them and give them something to hang on to for future generations to come. I’ve worked extremely hard to be a successful, female business owner.
I would say my niche in BMX that makes my work unique is that it’s an extremely different editing style than I have seen anyone else doing. My photos are bright, airy, and people-focused. I don’t try to change that when shooting BMX and it makes for a unique style. I found this pretty organically. I approached shooting riding the way I shoot my portrait work. I will say because my style is so different I don’t think it’s quite as recognized in the BMX space yet but I am not discouraged. It’s good to shake things up and have a different approach.
What’s a moment in your career so far that has validated your creative path, and what’s a moment you’re working towards? I have felt extremely validated by big brands enjoying and sharing my work. Rockstar, Tubolitos, DK, etc. But I love it the most when riders enjoy it. Perris shared some of my photos lately and I was really excited! I have submitted to the Dig photo contest for 4 years now and at some point they will have to stop ignoring my efforts! I’d like to see my BMX work in print. I also have been knocking on the door to shoot for FISE so if anyone has the hook up…
Outside of YOU, the photographer, who are YOU, when you’re not shooting? I am a wife, a business owner, a fierce dog mom of three, and I honestly spend most of my time outside of shooting riding my bike and being active. I didn’t know a thing about BMX before Nick and now I leave him behind to enjoy it on my own. It’s become an amazing hobby for me. I also love to read and just be a homemaker.
Who are three photographers who have influenced your style? I wouldn’t say I had a single influence really, I mostly met BMX photographers and saw their work long after I started shooting Nick. I think that’s what makes my style really unique! But that’s not to say I don’t have people who’s work I love now. Listing below!!
Who are three photographers who haven’t influenced your style but have epic photos worth lurking? Anna Dunaja (@Annjadunaya) her work is very people focused and she’s so sweet Naoki (@55naoking) no stranger to The Bloom but her work is rad Kyle Carlson (@kylecarlson) Kyle was the first BMX photog I really was exposed to and I love his more documentary type approach to shooting.
You’re on assignment, what do you shoot with? My main body is the Canon mirrorless R5 and the lens is the Canon RF 28-70. It’s a very expensive setup though so sometimes I’ll go simpler if I’m at an event and know I’ll be riding my bike around etc. I shot some 35mm film at the Monster Triple Hit last year and those came out really cool. I shoot natural light always which can be unique because a lot of OG BMX photogs have extensive light setups.
Do you have a process for capturing the perfect shot? As I mentioned before, my biggest want is for the photo to feel true. I don’t let the technicalities of shooting lead my process, I find the truest version of the photo and then have faith that I have the skills to make it technically sound. So this often looks like shooting people when they aren’t aware or spending a lot of time with them as they ride so I can really just get into their process!
Give us a tip, any tip! I think anyone can learn to shoot tricks, I think it takes more to learn how to connect with people via the art of photography. So my tip would be to learn about who you’re shooting and connect with them. Good photos will follow. Too many people get stuck behind the lens and if you want your subject to be vulnerable enough to share their passion, you have to be vulnerable with them as well.