Space Out With Adam Kennedy And His Fire Hydrants

Where you might see a fire hydrant, San Francisco photographer Adam Kennedy sees something bigger, a lot bigger. He sees planets. His Planet Universe series of images shows off his skills at creating planetary bodies from common fire hydrants and has recently turned Adam into a photography superstar. He was kind enough to discuss intergalactic vision vision and how he creates his art with me.

_Tell us about yourself!
_I am a photographer/filmmaker/designer from San Francisco, currently studying cinema as an undergraduate at San Francisco State University. I have a passion for blurring the lines between different mediums of art, and telling stories in unique and captivating ways. When I’m not doing video editing and motion graphics with the 12FPS team, I’m walking around the streets of San Francisco taking pictures of rusty fire hydrants and turning them into planets.

_What inspired you to turn rusty fire hydrants into planets?
_I made my first planet as a result of taking a bunch of photos of textures and random objects around the city and pulling them into Photoshop. When I photographed a rusty fire hydrant for the first time I didn’t see a planet, I just saw a rusty fire hydrant. It wasn’t until I isolated a circular region and began to toy with the colors that I realized I had revealed a celestial object.

The funny thing about this artform is that it’s not really in my hands at all. I use Photoshop as a tool to reveal something that is already there. I don’t force my ideas into the image, I just let the texture tell me a story. Each crack in the paint represents years of tension building up, weather and sunlight torturing the surface as it constantly changes. It is as dynamic and amorphous as the geography of our home planet, just on a different scale in size and time.

_While working on this project, how did your workflow typically begin?
_In the beginning, my workflow was cluttered and random, but once I started making good use of clipping masks and adjustment layers, it got much neater. On average, I use about eight Photoshop layers to create a planet, and a couple of them may be as few as four. I plan on creating an in-depth tutorial due to popular demand. Since not many people have round rusty fire hydrants in their area, I will be using the moon in the tutorial, so that everyone has access to it.

This project looks like it involved a lot of layers and custom techniques. Have any Photoshop tips to share?
A general tip for improving efficiency in Photoshop is to keep things dynamic, in that as you work you are setting things up to be able to easily go back and tweak something instead of having to try to undo permanent damage. Using adjustment layers instead of applying hard adjustments, using layer masks instead of deleting pixels and using smart objects to conceal a cluster of layers are examples of this.

_How does the Planet Universe project fit into your larger artistic vision?
_I am a video editor and animator by day, and I also have a passion for things relating to cinematography, but I feel that more broadly I have a love of storytelling and I often fail to see the seams between different mediums. Planet Universe is representative of my search for new ways of telling stories and mixing mediums in weird ways.

_What’s next for you? Are you working on any other projects that you can tell us about?
_I’m working on an animated short documentary that tells the story of seven Cherokee leaders who visited King George II in 1730 – the first American Indians ever to honorably cross the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

Thanks to Adam for taking the time to answer our questions. See more of his art at