Tommy Keith: Success Strategies
I had the pleasure of jurying the Filter Photo Member’s Exhibition and I was asked to select 5 portfolios to help showcase the Filter community. Not as easy task as there were so many excellent projects. One that I selected was Tommy Keith’s Success Strategies. His project examines family through a series of staged tableaux, considering the performative nature of family photos and selective memories. For Tommy, it starts with his conception through sperm donation and his desire to understand his origins and place in the world.
Tommy Keith (b. 1993, Canada) is a photographer based between Chicago and Toronto. He earned his BFA in Film Production from Concordia University and after graduation worked in the film industry as a camera assistant and production assistant. After three years of freelancing he moved to Chicago where he is a current MFA Photography candidate at Columbia College Chicago. He was recently commissioned by The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Magazine and included in Filter Photo’s Third Annual Members Exhibition.
I’ve often told myself that my interest in photographing myself and my family stems from my own personal history of being conceived through a sperm donation clinic. What does my biological father look like? Why does he not want to be found? Will I ever meet him? These questions seemed to consume the way I thought of any photograph I made with my parents. Despite how important I’ve always thought this origin story was, over time it has acted more and more as just a starting point. The photographs in “Success Strategies” speak far more to how I relate to my family and myself in the present moment than to our past.
My central interest in making photographs with my family is the different ways we perform for the camera and how our actions are translated or mistranslated into a still image. I’m aiming to make collaborative portraits that seem at once candid and staged, while using domestic and recreational activities as inspiration. When we stage ourselves in front of the camera, regardless of how pre-conceived the idea is, an element of chance always seems to seep in. It is this unexpected symbolism and meaning created between myself, my family members, and the environments we occupy that fascinates me most. How can these photographs accurately or inaccurately reflect our current relationships and how will this influence the way we see each other in the future?
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