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Interview: Kevin Key Photography

Interview: Kevin Key Photography

Who Is Kevin Key?

Kevin Key is a full-time real estate and fine art photographer with a special focus on the Salton Sea and abandoned buildings. Initially a software developer, he transitioned to photography full-time in 2017 after his work caught the attention of Airbnb. Influenced by photographers like Troy Paiva, Kevin also explores light painting techniques. While real estate photography is his primary income source, he passionately captures the night sky and other scenic views in and around San Diego County.

His journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring creatives, showcasing how one can turn a side gig into a fulfilling career.

An Interview and Expert Advice: Kevin Key 

In this interview, Kevin Key opens up about his fascination with the Salton Sea, the photographers who have influenced him, and offers invaluable advice for aspiring creatives. From his first experience at the Salton Sea to his favorite spots for photography, Kevin provides a comprehensive look into his artistic journey. 

The Allure of the Salton Sea

“What initially drew you to the Salton Sea as a photography subject?

Back in December of 2007 I happened upon a photo exhibit about the Salton Sea at the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts. The “before & after” photos of the motels, yacht clubs, marina, etc. really piqued my interest.

The exhibit mentioned the heyday of the Salton Sea and how the area later declined. I’m fascinated by decaying buildings and it wasn’t long before I headed out to the Salton Sea to explore and photograph it. Prior to seeing the exhibit at MOPA, I had never heard of the Salton Sea.”

First Impressions and Inspirations

Can you describe your first experience at the Salton Sea and how it inspired your photography?

“My first visit to the Salton Sea was at Salton City. I had come to explore the ruins, but just about all the ruins were demolished in Salton City prior to my visit in 2008. I then decided to head to the North Shore. I explored the then abandoned North Shore Beach & Yacht Club as well as the decaying North Shore Motel across the street. I was in photographic heaven! A short while later I explored Bombay Beach and was fascinated by all the decaying trailers and homes on the beach.”

The Message Behind the Lens

What messages or stories do you aim to convey about the Salton Sea area?

“Without hesitation, I wish more people would realize the potential of the Salton Sea. Restoring the Salton Sea – by adding more water and desalinating the water to match the salinity of the ocean – would totally be worth the effort. Knowing how popular the Salton Sea was in the 50’s and 60’s, I realize how much potential it has to be awesome again.”

Influences and Shoutouts

Are there any other photographers or artists who have influenced your work related to the Salton Sea?

“Yes. The first that comes to mind is Troy Paiva. He also inspired me to do light painting. It involves lighting up subjects – usually abandoned buildings – with carefully-positioned colored lights and photographing the results. You can find examples of this by looking up Troy Paiva on Flickr or Instagram.”

Tips for Aspiring Creatives

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives and photographers who are interested in exploring the Salton Sea as a subject?

“The Salton Sea is an amazing place for photographers, but the majority of the abandoned buildings have been demolished in recent years. You can still find a few here and there, but it’s not like it used to be. Instead, think about also photographing sunsets when the winds are calm and the water is like a mirror.

If you’re into birding, there’s the Sonny Bono Wildlife Refuge in the southeastern shores. Of course, you’ll definitely want to visit Bombay Beach! 

There’s art everywhere – both in town and on the beach itself. Many of the once-abandoned homes have been turned into art.”

Favorite Spots Around Borrego

Are there any specific locations in and around Borrego Springs that you find particularly inspiring for your work?

“Dos Cabezas, Font’s Point, the wind caves, the mud caves, Galleta Meadows, Ghost Mountain, and Clark Dry Lake are some of my favorite spots to photograph and camp.”

Galleta Meadow Favorites

Which Galleta Meadows sculpture is your personal favorite?

“I really like the pair of T-Rex dinosaurs as well as the scorpion & grasshopper. “

Advice For Creatives

What advice do you have for an aspiring artist who wants to make their art modality a career?

“Unless you’re EXTREMELY talented or lucky, it’ll be a long time before you can make enough money to live off of your art. I still make the vast majority of my income from real estate photography.”

The Art of Creative Selfies

You are the king at creative selfies and making average moments into dynamic photos, do you have any basic tips for amateurs to capture the moment like you do?

“Thanks. I think it’s important to be oneself while doing something unique and at least somewhat entertaining.

As you know, I take a lot of selfies where I have my feet kicked up in various locations.”

Where to Experience the Best of Salton Sea

Where should people go to see the best part of the Salton Sea in your opinion?

“Bombay Beach! But also, Salton Sea Beach, Desert Shores, the North Shore Beach & Yacht Club, and the mudpots at the corner of Schrimpf and Davis.

And, if you have 4WD and are experienced with driving off road, be sure to visit the abandoned Salton Sea Naval Station.”

Keep Up With Kevin Key

To learn more about Kevin Key and explore his work, visit:

Kevin Key: An Inspiration for Aspiring Artists

This interview offers a quick dive into the artistic world of Kevin Key.

I encourage anyone interested in Kevin’s work to follow him, share, and reach out to him if you have more questions.

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