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Full Circle: How Garrett's Passion for Photography Turned Into a Unique Career Choice


Garrett Kelly’s first interest in photography arose as a child growing up on the ocean shores of Wilmington, North Carolina. With parents who enjoyed nature, camping, and the beach, including a dad who was an amateur photographer himself, having cameras around was a natural occurrence in the Kelly household. Early memories of stacks of film from family vacations, as well as his own fiddling around with his Dad’s SLR camera are fond memories for Garrett, who never imagined that photography would continue to be such a significant part of his daily life decades later.

As time went on, Garrett’s photography interest grew, and he got his first film camera in his early teen years. It was constantly by his side as he studied photography as part of his time in the Boy Scouts. In time, as his studies in school began to lean more towards the science and technology topics, his interest in photography waned a bit.  

“As a kid”, says Garrett, “my parents got copies of National Geographic, and for a time, I wanted to be a photographer for them. I would get to travel the world and see new places, and people would get to experience them by way of my photography. Unfortunately, while I was in school, I was always more science-minded and didn’t pursue becoming a photographer, and my drive to be a photographer diminished a bit, but the bug was still there in the back of my mind.”


After 4 years at college, not feeling he’d found the right fit in any of the majors he tried, he decided he needed a change and enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Medical Laboratory Technician; a decision, he says, that was one of the best he ever made “because it gave me a steady job, and I was able to purchase my first digital camera, a Sony α100 DSLR, while stationed at Fort Sam Houston, in Texas.”  His subsequent training and rising through the ranks led him from Texas to Hawaii, where in his spare time he honed his skills on landscape photography, then to Wiesbaden, Germany, where practicing his street photography allowed him to capture the raw history in the streets of Europe.

His travels then brought him back to the United States, to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, when he worked for a pathologist and Forensic Medical Examiner.

“That was my first introduction to the field of forensic photography and, more specifically, Autopsy Forensic Photography”, Garrett said.

It was also the moment that he first realized that his love of photography could also become a significant part of his career.

As he advanced in Autopsy Forensic Photography, he moved back to Hawaii as a newly-promoted Staff Sergeant in charge of the Anatomic Pathology Department. In time, he earned a prestigious role in the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) as a Special Agent.

“Photography is a big part of any Criminal Investigation,” Garrett said. ”Special Agents are required to spend several weeks of the training with a camera in their hands, learning the ins and outs of how the camera works and the exposure triangle. This training keeps the goal of taking quality photographs, which will then get shown in court as a visual representation of the crime scene”. During this time, he upgraded his personal kit to include a FUJIFILM X-T1, and that’s when he “fell in love with the system”.

Garrett lives in Alaska now in his CID role, and needless to say, photography is still a large part of his day-to-day existence. Looking back on his journey from a North Carolina kid with a camera, to his advanced role in the military, camera still in hand,

Garrett feels grateful. “For me, joining the military was a leap into the unknown, and at the time, I did not know what I wanted to do, but ultimately, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made,”

he said. “The military afforded me the chance to find my path and follow my passion. I thoroughly enjoy my forensic photography work and having a camera in my hand as much as possible. While compositions are slightly different from an artistic style, the basic skills remain the same; I’m doing something that helps others, in a job which provides a lot of satisfaction at the end of the day.”

What’s in Garrett’s kit?

“My photography kit now includes a

  • FUJIFILM X-T4 (recent upgrade!!)
  • XF8-16mmF2.8 R LM WR
  • XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
  • XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR
  • XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR
  • XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR

My work kit consists of the

  • XF60mm F2.4 R Macro,
  • XF18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR.

The kit I have now is my dream kit, but since moving to Alaska, I have been getting into Aurora photography, and I want to add the GFX 100 to my kit because of its ability to perform in low light situations.”