Interview with Sean Kelly

Sean Kelly is a recent graduate of the Professional Masters in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image program at the University of Amsterdam. He is currently employed at the East Anglian Film Archive in his home town of Norwich, UK. He came to IPI as the recipient of an internship sponsored by the Association of Moving Image Archivists to conduct research for his degree. His dedication to the moving image, both as a die-hard supporter of the cinematic experience and as an analog and digital media 'techie,' is remarkable. If he wasn't chipping away at his research, he was enjoying borrowed DVDs of the staff's favorite films or taking in a flick at the Dryden Theater. His cheery personality and enthusiasm were a welcome addition to the institute for the three months he was here. 

Sean KellyName:
Sean Kelly

Where were you born?
Norwich, UK.  This is a small city in East Anglia which is a couple of hours drive north east of London.

What was your professional training?
I am now completing the Professional Masters in Preservation and Presentation of the moving image at the University of Amsterdam though I gained my first work experience at The East Anglian Film Archive where I started as a volunteer before working as a Cataloguer. Before I left the Archive in 2009 to return to study I also spent 12 months as a Telecine operator. While studying in Amsterdam I completed a short internship at Haghefilm working with original applied colour techniques used in silent cinema but also worked at a small gauge transfer unit inspecting, cleaning and repairing film. 

What was your very first job?
My first job related to film in some way was as an usher in a small independent cinema at university. I was paid with free tickets.

What would your dream job be?
At the moment as long as I can continue to work within moving image preservation in some way I am happy. Particular interests include acetate base preservation, applied colour restoration and the role of digital technology in archives. After completing the MA in Amsterdam I have recently become interested in Media Art preservation too.

How did your partnership with IPI begin?
I was awarded the AMIA / IPI internship in 2009 which involved working on a small project on vinegar syndrome with Jean-Louis. I looked at quantifying the influence of winding, ventilation, and molecular sieves on the free acidity and shrinkage of triacetate film base.

Why does the preservation of museum and library collections matter to you?
For me it’s a ‘no brainer’ which can actually make it quite difficult to answer. Why wouldn’t you? This is material which is related to every aspect of society. In terms of photography, particularly moving images, for me there is no other medium as important or beautiful. Its versatility is stunning, being both a means of documentation and entertainment. It allows you to look back in time, to see an actual inscription of light from the past, be it a personal relative or the record of a globally historic event. Yet simultaneously, it can be something which is simply beautiful to look at. I will never get bored of watching Kodachrome.

What is your favorite work of art or your favorite artist?
In terms of cinema I love Silent film, particularly the very beginning and end of the era; the mad anarchic films of the 1890s but also the refined masterpieces of the 20s. I also love classical Hollywood and experimental cinema. I have recently become interested in ‘media art’ too. I like Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans (aka jodi) and Cory Arcangel.

What other hobbies or significant interests do you have? 
I am interested in Astronomy, Cookery, Comics, Cycling, Film Technology (particularly the development of color processes and widescreen cinema), Music, Photography, Swimming, Running, Video Games and Web Development.

What book (or books) would you take with you to a desert island?
The works of Thomas Hardy, though I would also add Phillip K. Dick to provide a little balance. It always amazes me how cinematic Hardy seems to be.

What is your most treasured possession?
My negatives and slides.

What is your greatest indulgence?
I just paid for Pordenone 2011 by credit card.

What was the most surprising thing to you about IPI?
I guess what was most surprising was the diversity of the work environment at IPI which makes sense when you think about what IPI actually does. The lab work is only one aspect and the means of presentation and other outreach is also very important. IPI is about accessibility and common understanding of often complex research. I was also surprised by the vast amount of reference material available in the library from books and journals to photographs. I spent a lot of time going through the early SMPTE journals and the Kodak tinting guides. The espresso machine was also a nice surprise!