A Fine-Portrait Photographer in Delaware Captures a Mother’s Love

Photo by Kellie Wilke

Wilmington photographer Kelli Wilke remodels her business to focus on portraits of families and children for her latest book to benefit a local charity.

The past year has been a time of reflection for many, including fine-art photographer Kelli Wilke of Wilmington, who seized the opportunity to remodel her business. “I made a decision to focus my energy on portraiture, as it represents the best cross-section of my 25 years as a professional photographer,” says Wilke. Subsequently, the mother of three came up with a new concept for a book. “As a mother of three boys, I know we tend to not be in photos because we are usually the ones taking them,” she says. “We are the ones running around in the background or who haven’t had time to prepare our hair or makeup for a photo. …It struck me as incredibly sad for the moms and children who will want to have those special memories and moments preserved in time.” Last fall, she began photographing local mothers with their children, capturing the nuances of their unique relationship. The series of black-and-white photographs has been developed into a book, Mother and Child, a Loving Bond, slated for release this fall. Here, Wilke takes us behind the lens for a deeper look at her passion project.


What did you hope to reveal with these images?

The relationship between a mother and her child is the quintessential expression of love. And each relationship is as unique as the individuals themselves. So, when I’m in a photo with my child, I want that relationship captured so I can hold onto it forever. Mothers play different roles at different times for their kids—sometimes you’re a playmate, sometimes you’re a comfort, sometimes you’re a teacher. And each transition from one role to another can be as nuanced as a raised eyebrow, a twinkle in your eye, a subtle smirk or a forehead wrinkle. These are all micro-expressions of the shared love and relationship between a mother and child that only they can recognize and truly understand their depth. Sometimes candid, sometimes posed, it is my job with this project, and every other project I work on for that matter, to capture that connection before the moment passes.

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Why black and white?

I find it is much more timeless, allowing us to really focus on the expression and interaction between the people without the possible distractions of colors and patterns we often get with color images.

In the day of ubiquitous smartphones, why is portrait photography important?

I have the unique perspective of a photographer who has seen the evolution of film to digital over the last two decades, and the biggest difference is how we display and preserve our images. We used to have printed pictures that we would hold in our hands and display on our walls or bookshelves—physical representation of that moment in time you could see every day. Today, most people’s photos are sitting on a thumb drive in a drawer or stored in the Cloud. My goal is to help my clients create and display beautiful, finished works of art of their memories that they can pass down for generations. Years ago, I also came across a study showing a direct correlation between a child’s self-esteem and having photos of the child hanging up in the home—that has really stuck with me.


Your book benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware.

Every year, I find a way to give back to our community. I chose the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware because of the positive difference they are making for children, providing safe and welcoming spaces for kids to learn and play. They also give parents peace of mind because of how effortlessly they managed to pivot and were open to those families that needed them the most. This fundraising book (each family featured donates $49) is my small way to give back to an organization that has always met the needs of the community.

What draws you to portraiture?

I love the personal connection I can make with my clients and the distinctive photography experience I can provide. I tailor the entire experience around the individual or family, delivering photographs that are both elegant and timeless. My goal in focusing on portrait work is to defy the standard expectations for family photography and give people an opportunity to enjoy a fully custom art experience that produces pieces as extraordinary as the images themselves.

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