Keith Carter has been called a transcendental realist for his hauntingly enigmatic and mythological toned photographs that blend the animal world, popular culture, Southern folklore and religion from his East Texas home. Carter has published over a dozen mono- graphs and teaches photography at Lamar University where he holds the Endowed Walles Chair of Visual and Performing Arts. The following represents a condensation of our recent exchanges.
Robert Hirsch: How has your background affected your imagemaking?
Keith Carter:I’m a self-taught photographer from a Southern culture on the Texas-Louisiana border. My mom was a single parent who made a living as a photographer of children and families in Beaumont, TX. A sculptor in town, David Cargill, became my mentor and we still have lunch every Wednesday. David had a darkroom and an art library that had a profound influence on me. It was the beginning of my art education and the awakening of my aesthetic. Cargill taught me the importance of craft and to be ruthless with the use of visual space. He would say, “If it doesn’t balance something or say something, get it out of there.” His words haunt me to this day.