Carter, Keith

American (1948-)

Keith Carter’s earliest memories involve his mother developing film after his father had deserted the family. She kept a small studio in Beaumont, Texas, where she photographed children and then would develop prints in the kitchen sink. It wasn’t Carter’s plan to follow in her footsteps, but while struggling through business school and working as her framer, he received a copy of Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment. The book inspired him, provoking a realization that photography could be an art, and he immediately began shooting on his own. He learned from his mistakes and successes until he felt ready to “shoot the world”; soon after, he sold his motorcycle, bought a bus ticket and heading to New York to take in a Paul Strand exhibit at MOMA. It was 1973.  

Carter traveled and photographed for the next several years, hailed by the LA Times as “a poet of the ordinary.” His body of work began to exhibit dreamlike and transcendental qualities. While his camera recorded external reality, it also caught the unseen spirit of things. A streamer, stuck in the tree, blowing in the wind, would take on an air of mystery and enigma. At some point in the 80s, Carter realized that he didn’t have to go all over the world to capture these images; his own Texas backyard was full of the exotically mundane. Following in the tradition of Walker Evans and Southern storytellers, he returned home and focused his attentions there. A recent project, From Uncertain to Blue, involved traveling to 100 small towns, all with catchy names, and shooting only one photograph in each.