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KEITH CARTER: Poet Of The Ordinary Life

By Bill Dobbins

Lauded as “a transcendent realist” and “a poet of the ordinary,” Keith Carter is an internationally acclaimed photographer whose work has been shown in over one hundred solo exhibitions in thirteen countries. Carter first found his subjects in the familiar, yet exotic, places and people of his native East Texas. For the past two decades he has expanded his range not only geographically, but also into realms of dreams and imagination, where objects of the mundane world open glimpses into ineffable realities. – Wikipedia

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Photo ©Keith Carter

Photography by it’s nature is a literal media but since the beginning, there have been photographers who have worked to introduce subjective, abstract and what they viewed as more “artistic” elements into the image making.  At the end of the 19th century there as the pictorialist movement which had the aim of making photographs look more like paintings.  But there are others such as surrealists and expressionists who looked to extend their photographs to a point beyond the literal and include a more subjective and emotional quality using both very personal vision and all the tools available (pre-digital) in the darkroom.

One of those photographers is Keith Carter.  Carter’s work explores relationships that can be described as timeless, enigmatic, and mythological. He draws for inspiration from everything from the animal world and popular culture to folklore and religion, Carter presents photographs that attempt to reflect hidden meanings in the real world – making photographs that address the relationship we have to our ideas of place, time, memory, desire, and regret.

Keith Carter girl
Photo ©Keith Carter
Photo ©Keith Carter

Keith Carter’s photographs also are informed by the history of photography and our own shared experience derived from exposure to a constant and increasing number of images.

Keith Carter has a long history of creating amazing images.  He is a distinguished artist, author, educator, and occasional musician.  He holds the Endowed Walles Chair of Art at Lamar University in Texas.

Photo ©Keith Carter
Photo ©Keith Carter
Photo ©Keith Carter

Carter is also a recipient of the prestigious Texas Medal of Arts. Other awards include the Lange-Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Regent’s Professor Award from the Texas State University System. Keith is a prolific artist whose work has been shown in over 100 solo exhibitions in thirteen countries. He is the author of eleven books: FirefliesA Certain AlchemyOpera NudaEzekiel’s HorseHolding VenusBonesMojo, Keith Carter Photographs: Twenty-Five YearsHeaven of AnimalsThe Blue Man, and From Uncertain to Blue. A DVD documentary of his work titled The Photographer’s Series: Keith Carter was produced by Anthropy Arts.

Carter’s work is included in many private and public collections, including the National Portrait Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, George Eastman House, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University.

In 2009 Carter was awarded the Texas Medal of Arts. A 2006 documentary on Carter’s work titled The Photographers Series: Keith Carter was produced by Anthropy Arts in New York. In 1997, “Keith Carter: Poet of the Ordinary” was produced as a national television arts segment on CBS Sunday Morning and in 1991 Carter received the Lange-Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Photo ©Keith Carter
Photo ©Keith Carter
Photo ©Keith Carter

Keith Carter’s most recent book is KEITH CARTER:Fifty Years, celebrating a lifetime of exploring humanity’s landscape through an artistic lens, this legendary photographer collects 250 of his most compelling images, ranging from the deeply personal to the universal, accompanied by essays from bestselling novelist and poet Rosellen Brown and acclaimed critic A. D. Coleman.

Fifty Years spans delicate, century-old processes as well as digital-age techniques yielding an enduring vision of the world around us. These photographs use contrasts of natural light and darkness to explore the mythos of time and terrain, the familiar, the magical, and the varied creatures that inhabit our earth. The human form—depleted or energized, solitary or with a beloved partner— becomes a meditation on aging and loss, which have affected Carter profoundly in recent years. Yet these losses have spurred in him a sense of discovery, not despair.

Because photography, especially in the film days, is essentially a mechanical medium it is difficult for photographers to put such a personal stamp on their work that their images become highly individual, personal and recognizable.  But this is exactly what Keith Carter has managed to achieve over his long career.






Bill Dobbins Sarah Lyons dressing room-SMALL-1

Bill Dobbins is a pro photographer located in  Los Angeles. He is a veteran photographer and videographer who has exhibited his fine art in two museums and a number of galleries and who has published eight books, including two fine art photo books:

The Women: Photographs of The Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan)
Modern Amazons (Tashen)






Photo ©Keith Carter
Photo ©Keith Carter
Keith Carter has a long history of creating amazing images.  He is a distinguished artist, author, educator, and occasional musician.  He holds the Endowed Walles Chair of Art at Lamar University in Texas.
About Author

Bill Dobbins THE BODY PHOTOGAPHER became well known for his male and female physique photos - images of the aesthetic, athletic body. Using the same distinctive personal style, characterized by strong graphics and a classic look in both color and BW, Bill Dobbins has also developed a body of work featuring fashion, beauty and glamor photos In a world in which so many images create a level of "noise" that makes it hard for advertisers to be noticed, Bill's work cuts right through the confusion and grabs the eye. Bill has created two art photos books: The Women: Photographs of the Top Female Bodybuilders (Artisan) and Modern Amazons (Taschen) and his fine art work has appeared in two museums and several galleries. WEBSITES BILL DOBBINS PHOTOGRAPHY BILL DOBBINS ART THE FEMALE PHYSIQUE WEBZINE/GALLERY EMAIL:

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