Bold, honest, strong. These three words describe photographer Kelly Marshall and the body of work that she shot for Inside/Out's New York community chapter.
As a professional photographer, Kelly is often on her feet for long periods of time, in constant movement, lifting heavy equipment and bags. On a physical level, she is therefore committed to making sure her core is tight and says that this is the foundation for everything. She runs, does pilates and HIIT training, too (like most of the New Yorkers who appreciate both efficiency and challenge). Most importantly, Kelly's focus embraces change, pushing boundaries and living life without restraint.
I/O: Was physical education a central element of your identity at school when you were a kid?
K: Definitely not! I was not what you would call the athletic type, although looking back I probably just needed a little encouragement (or kick in the butt) to see how much fun it could be. My brother was the jock but for various life events and family reasons I was not heavily encouraged to pursue sports.
I/O: Are you a sports fan?
K: I appreciate sports today but the corporate industry of big sports has made me lose interest on a larger scale. I am a big tennis fan, probably because most of my family and I played it. I have fond memories of watching Wimbledon and the French & US Opens during the summer. I am a strong individualist. The one on one nature of the sport fascinates me. It’s all on you.
I/O: What sports heroes do you remember from childhood?
K: My father loved boxing so it was often on the TV. I remember watching Sugar Ray Leonard fight and Joe Frazier was a local legend in Philadelphia. Also Boris Becker, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl. Did I mention I watched a lot of tennis growing up?
I/O: Do you ever feel intense emotions during your mind/body workouts?
K: Definitely with running and yoga. If I get really into the zone then incredible break throughs can and have happened. I have creative inspiration, stress relief; it’s almost like therapy. Clears my mind for the good to come in. Hiking in nature has also given me some epic downloads. I started practicing yoga after living through 9-11. Like most New Yorkers I was looking for an outlet to ease all this tension and pain. I fell hard and fast and continued to have a very strong practice for about 6 years, studying with some amazing yogis in California. This was the first time in my life I was directly turned onto the mind body connection, of taping into my inner and higher self and expanding my consciousness that was non-drug related. It opened a portal to heal a lot of child hood and family trauma I had been carrying around. It was also my gateway to a meditation practice.
I/O: Favorite sports moments of the last 20 years?
K: Not sure of specific moments but I do get excited about World Cups and the Olympics. Despite the many scandals over the last few years, it’s still so exhilarating to watch these athletes perform. And watching Serena Williams become the greatest athlete of all time!
I/O: Do you have a mantra?
K: If I had one it would probably be something like: "You got this. There are no obstacles in your way." Our belief systems shape our lives and this is something I tell myself before and during every workout. I repeat it over and over and it stops any desire to quit early or stop. It really works! I am finally implementing this practice to my work life.
I/O: How would you define the relationship that New Yorkers have with the active lifestyle?
K: New Yorkers are extremists at heart. It’s the only way you can live here and survive. We live at such a high functioning pace; we don’t even realize it until we have literal burn out. And most New Yorkers are very competitive. We live in a jungle and it brings out this animalistic nature in us! Therefore, I see fitness as just one arm of the high paced life we are living. We want the best of everything and looking good (or winning) is just one part of this persona. And since it’s such a stressful lifestyle, working out is just good medicine.
I/O: Do you feel it always been this way?
K: I think it’s been that way for at least the last 40 years. Wellness seems to have had a strong foundation here with the health and racquet clubs and runners groups.
I/O: Do you think that New York sportswear has had an impact on global style and fashion?
K: I think the American sportswear game, as we know it today has had a huge impact on global fashion. We know this. But in reality I think it was a few outside (non NY, non American companies) that set the trends to make athleisure wear what it is today. I think of brands like Lululemon that actually re-made the game. Producing high end and luxury work out clothes, clothes that women wanted to be seen in public wearing as a status symbol. That was the first step. The second was the casualization of our culture. We no longer have to dress up for anything. And thirdly, the gym as the new nightclub phenomenon. Since America pumps our values and culture ceaselessly around the world, it’s inevitable that the clothing trends follow. Paris is the perfect example. You would never see a Parisian wearing fitness clothes on the street, it would be tacky and uncouth. But by the time I moved back to NY in 2014 and even more so now, the fitness as lifestyle has got a hold on the city. The fashion houses all have athleisure lines… It’s the new way of dressing. How we are living our lives has changed and therefore how we dress for it.
I/O: What is your ideal performance garment or product?
K: My ideal performance garment is a sports bra that I can also wear everyday in my non-sweat life. That obviously doesn’t only look like it’s for sport, but is so comfortable I never want to take it off.
I/O: Your favorite activewear brands?
K: I still really love Lululemon products. Mostly the pants as their tops and I are always in constant battle over the right fit. Nike has that "cool" street factor, but I buy it for style not performance. And believe it or not, I’ve found some gems at Target. I believe Champion does a line for them. Never ever under estimate Target!
I/O: What lifestyle rituals or routines do you do before or after working out?
K: Ha! Sadly my most rampant ritual is trying to talk myself out of working out! Otherwise it’s just stretching and hydrating.
I/O: What about beauty?
K: I just put my hair up. With an Afro I don’t have that many options or have to do that much. It basically stays where I put it. And black women hair care could take up a whole other website! Basically I just pull it back with a band and moisturize after showering. I use Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk.
I/O: What activities say New York the most?
K: Running in Central Park and running or cycling the West Side Highway. And of course walking. We walk everywhere!!
I/O: From street to studio, define your style.
K: Stylish, street inspired, effortless, and usually all black.
I/O: What lifestyle trends do see happening?
K: I see that mediation has become much more mainstream here in New York City. As well as other mind/body connection experiences like Woom and those deprivation tanks you sit in. What New Yorker can’t breath more or take a time out? I’ve also noticed fitness clubs expanding in different directions such as the Project Space by Equinox. You don’t have to be a member anymore to experience their top trainers' classes. I think that is a smart move.
I/O: What activities have you recently discovered or want to try?
K: My boyfriend turned me onto High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). He does it at home off an app or his favorite trainers' websites. At first I was cynical and thought I needed someone yelling at me or pushing me through a work out in a class to see any results. But I am hooked now and it’s so easy for me to make time for a 12 or 30 minute work out at home. There is no excuse to not get it done. We all have 12 minutes. And it’s free! I especially love the Nike Training App where you can customize the training you want and it features top athletes routines.
I/O: Favorite studio and class?
K: I’m a huge fan of Mile High Run Club. I hate running in the cold and on New York City concrete so it’s my refuge most of the winter. Their treadmills offer the least impact and the interval training pushes me way beyond my personal training plans. My other favorite is Kinected Pilates. It’s not one of those cool hip studios downtown and you will only find older people or athletes and dancers working on a recovery. They focus solely on proper body alignment and micro-movements to get the body fully functioning. I would go every morning if I could! With my photographic career I am often on my feet for long periods of time and lifting heavy equipment and bags. I am committed to making sure my core is tight! It’s the foundation for everything.
I/O: In the city that never sleeps where does mind/body training fit into your life?
K: I was very lucky that for two years I had a client that paid for my wellness lifestyle. I photographed athletes and fitness personalities and got to work with other fitness focused people. So it fit in my life on a daily basis. After that relationship ended I wasn’t really sure how I was going to be able to fit it in. It’s so expensive here in NY and I was way over the gym lifestyle. I knew I wanted a more focused individualised approach. That’s why I love HIIT so much. I realised I could do it anytime and anywhere. And with my unpredictable schedule it was an ideal solution. For most of my life I was a morning workout person. I’m a morning person and if something doesn’t get done by 6pm it probably won’t. But as I’ve matured, I like mid-day training. I like the mid day break and it extends my workday. I have more clarity and energy going into the afternoon.
I/O: Have you ever traveled for wellness?
K: I’ve only done it a few times, once for a week long yoga/spiritual retreat in Montana about 8 years ago and the other for a field day like fit camp upstate last summer.
I/O: Did you go on your own?
K: I went solo to the yoga retreat. I practiced with the teacher regularly and knew I wanted to do deeper work with her. To fit camp I went to with friends. It was fun to work out with them while meeting other cool people.
I/O: When do you feel that you are part of a sports or wellness community?
K: It would definitely be a physical thing, like joining an intramural team or a running club. I strive to exit the digital world as much as possible.
I/O: What destinations are on your wish list?
K: None come to mind exactly. When I travel it’s much more about the culture, food and history, as well as meeting and connecting with the people. If I get some wellness or exercise in, to me that’s just a bonus.
I/O: What role does music play in your practice(s)?
K: I run to music. It’s invaluable to getting me through the tough parts.
I/O: Is working out and self-care the new social/nightlife?
K: Absolutely! I lived in NYC during the 90’s and was very involved with the music and club scene. My 20’s was all about seeing my favorite DJ’s and finding the best and most underground club to hear the latest tracks. It was less about getting fucked up and much more about inhabiting and finding spaces where we could be seen and express our selves safely. It was where us brown/gay/fringe - whatever the label was - kind of kids came to congregate, to be a part of a community since culture at large didn’t reflect that back to us at the time. It’s where we were allowed to be free, express ourselves and feel connected to other people through music. And it’s where we saw the fashion, styles and street culture that people now see on their IG and other apps. Pre smart phones one had to engage with the world actively. It didn’t come into our homes, into our hands. So again as the world has changed, how we engage in it does too. Right now it’s fitness.
I/O: How did sports of physical activities impact your eating habits?
K: I don’t think it really does. I was a very very picky eater as a child and it took me until 35 to really open up to a much larger food scene. But even with this I was always a very light eater. I don’t like huge portions, never really liked super rich foods, or fried things and was a vegetarian most of my life.
I/O: Does challenging yourself physically take you out of your comfort zone in other areas of your life?
K: Probably. But I feel like my life as a whole is constantly out of my comfort zone. It is so uncertain at all times, that pushing my physical boundaries is actually quite grounding. It’s something I actually have control over. Making myself uncomfortable in all areas of my life comes quite naturally to me; taking care of myself through the process does not. So in some ways pushing myself in my workouts allows me to give myself rest and pacing in my professional and emotional life.
I/O: How do you strive to find balance between different areas of your life?
K: I have no idea. That’s a moment-to-moment practice. I am lucky that as a self-employed person I am the master of my day-to-day destiny so to speak. There are weeks where I am on the road on a project and in the zone and just as many weeks as I work from my home office. Then there is family and personal life obligations. But my partner has a classic 9-5 job so it was hard to get into that weekend-structured lifestyle. Quite recently I decided to make a change in how I approached my life. I am still easing into it and fight it tremendously but I think it’s where my magic lies. And it’s simply getting up in the morning and creating that balance of what I am inspired to do as well as what I am here to do. My personal work and creativity have to be number one on my to do list. Yes, my commercial clients get my full attention but there are many other hours in the day and when I approach my to-do list I now tackle the personal ones instead of finding only space at the end of the day or not at all. The work I came here to do is now a priority. That said, everything else works itself out in the day.
I/O: What does female empowerment mean to you? Do you feel that women go further together?
K: Female empowerment is human empowerment. We carry and birth life into this world. What is more empowering than that? It all starts with us so our personal empowerment is key to all transformation and change. This is the only true thing I have to do in my life. To be empowered. To live my highest and best self every day. To continue to seek and live in the unknown, to revel in the messy parts of life. To fully live life without restraint. To show up unequivocally. To love myself shamelessly and unabashedly. That’s all I have to do. If every woman were taught to live life this way there would be no stopping us.
I/O: Do your wellness practices give you a sense of community? Is this a motivating factor or a secondary effect?
K: Not since I left my fitness client where it was all about community. I miss it but am hard pressed to find the time to fit it all in anymore.
TIPS AND ADDRESSES
1 tip to improve performance: At least 20 minutes of a proper cool/down stretching regimen… It’s often over looked even in classes.
1 trainer: Roderick Covington from Core Rhythm Fitness, an amazing spirit dedicated to helping people not only hit their goals but create real power shifts in their lives.
1 power song: Jay Z, "Dirt Off Your Shoulder".
1 app: Nike Training App, it’s free, customizable and easy to use.
1 podcast: Sex with Jaiya, it’s a bit silly at times, but a great resource for all things sex and female body/health related.
1 blog/site: Mama Gena School Of Womanly Arts
1 food address: Uncle Boons. Best Thai food in NYC.
1 beverage: Pellegrino blood orange soda. I don’t indulge in non-alcoholic beverages often but this one is so tasty it stands on it’s own!
1 inspiration: Michelle Obama
1 woman we should interview: Mama Gena!
Thank you: Mile High Run Club