Kehl family balanced life of NFL and photography

Jessica Kehl
Jessica and Bryan Kehl support each other in football, photography and family. (Jessica Kehl)

BYU football fans will remember Bryan Kehl as a playmaking linebacker who suited up in Provo from 2002, 2005-07.

But while Bryan was making plays on the field, Jessica Bingham was making her plays behind the lens of a camera as a freelance photographer. The two were married in 2009.

Jessica took her first photography class as an eighth-grader from photographer Tillman Crane. Photography came naturally to her, and she loved the creative aspect that was attached to it.

She was one of only 15 students accepted into BYU’s photography program when she applied. Before she graduated, Jessica received a grant to spend time in China taking photos there. She said she spent her time putting together a project reflecting her experiences there.

Jessica Kehl
Jessica photographed doorways in China. She said it was fascinating the way the doors represented Chinese culture. (Jessica Kehl)

“For one of my art pieces in China, I did a collage of doorways I saw,” Jessica said. “I was trying to do my own unique thing and noticed that so many people there hang out in their doorways. I thought it was so fascinating, so I got a lot of photos of doorways there.”

Jessica’s creativity only grew from her experience in China. For one of her final classes at BYU, she took an alternative processes class. The class project involved coming up with a unique way of printing a photo — a way no one had done before. She came up with a series of portraits featuring young women, highlighting their best features.

“I’m so proud of it. They (the portraits) hang in the front room of my home now,” Jessica said. “The whole semester I was trying different methods, and I came up with a combination of an ink jet and a van dyke print. I spent hours and hours in the lab trying to get it just right and have it look the way I wanted it to. It was so hard to get it to work, and I was so happy when it did.”

Jessica created a technique of printing photos never used before. Jessica now displays these photos among many others like them in the front room of her home. (Jessica Kehl)

 

 

 

Jessica said she planned on growing her own photography business and interning with a big-time photographer, but after meeting her husband, those plans were altered.

“As soon as I knew I would marry Bryan, I knew that I would be moving out of state and photography would be put on hold,” Jessica said.

Bryan played for BYU’s football team as a linebacker and was drafted by the New York Giants in 2008, but spent time with five different NFL teams in a span of five years.

Because of the nature of his job, the couple traveled back and forth between Utah and various cities every couple of months, so it was nearly impossible for Jessica to establish her photography career.

“Moving to New Jersey I think was isolating at times for Jessica, but I’m grateful because she was always very supportive of me,” Bryan said. “Us getting married changed her plans more than it changed what she was doing. She created her own path.”

Jessica’s mother Pam Bingham said she knew how creative her daughter was and how much she valued her work. Pam said she knew Jessica was on a great journey and she would make the best of it.

“Moving opened up so many doors for Jessica. Her husband’s NFL career opened up opportunities for her as well,” Pam said. “Jess and Bryan have supported one another impressively in their careers. They just get it.”

Jessica always made it a priority to travel to all of Bryan’s games with him while the NFL was moving Bryan from place to place. She thought it was important to be there supporting him.

“I started taking pictures of some of the families on the team and picked up freelance work for corporate businesses, and I still continue to do the same thing,” Jessica said. “I have been able to photograph events all over the country and outside of the country.”

The Kehls’ lives have completely changed again, as they are now a family of four with another baby on the way. After Bryan’s NFL career ended, they moved back to Utah. Bryan started his own residential concrete business and Jessica continued to do corporate photography.

“I think that the mother and father are divinely inspired, and they’re different for a reason. And their kids were meant to be raised by both,” Bryan said. “There are certain things that Jess excels at that I don’t do well, vice versa. We do things differently and we respond differently. And that’s what kids need.”

Jessica and Bryan said kids changed everything. It’s a lot harder to work when you have kids because it’s like having a full-time job and trying to have a part time job at the same time, they said.

“Sometimes the life you envision for yourself isn’t what happens, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t have a great life,” Jessica said. “My life, even though it hasn’t been predictable at all, has been fulfilling and amazing in so many different ways that I never would have imagined.”

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