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Keith Carter ( is one of the most influential and renowned fine-art/editorial photographers working today. An internationally respected educator, workshop leader, and recipient of the Texas Medal of Arts, Keith holds the Endowed Walles Chair of Art at Lamar University in Texas, where he received the Regents’ Professor Award. He has published 14 books of his expressive images. His photographs are in numerous collections including the Getty Museum, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Art Institute of Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


LACP Interviews Keith Carter

LACP asks Keith Carter ten questions about his background, career in and beliefs about photography.

LACP: What kind of photographer are you?

Keith Carter: I started in the documentary tradition. Today I continue to work in the real world, rather than heavily “staging” or conceptualizing ideas. I’m fond of a Wallace Steven’s quote; ”poetry must almost successfully resist intelligence.” I change “poetry” to “photography” and go from there. It’s the “must almost” part that always gets me. I’m a bit free-wheeling.

LACP: How long have you been shooting?

KC: 47 years. My mom was a single parent and well as a portrait photographer. I was 5 or 6 when I started helping her in the darkroom. Mostly I just stood on a chair and moved prints around in the developer. I though it was kind of magical, and I loved the orange light.

LACP: Where did you get your training?

KC: I’m self-taught. I got my training through books and practical experience. My mentor was a sculptor and ironically, part of my life has revolved around teaching in a University art department for over three decades.

LACP: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?

KC: Age 22. Even though I grew up around photography I was a late bloomer paying little attention. Most of my teen youth was pretty shallow. I was about to graduate college with a business degree and not much direction, when I borrowed my mom’s Rolliflex twin lens camera. I made some black and white photographs and showed them to her. She said “honey…you have a good eye – you have a nice sense of light.” Positive parenting set me on fire. Forty years later I’m still on fire.

LACP: Did you ever come close to giving up?

KC: No. I love the profession. To me there was always a romance involved. It was never about the money. Plus my wife Pat was always courageous and encouraging. If things got dicey, she was always there to remind me that what we were doing was about the work.

LACP: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?

KC: I can’t think of anything. In fact, it’s the opposite. I gained everything that makes an adult life worth living by being a photographer.

LACP: What have you gained by being a photographer?

KC: Love, children, work I’ve profoundly enjoyed, travel, adventure, friends, and last but not least, a comfortable lifestyle.

LACP: What classes do you teach at LACP?

KC: The Practice of Enchantment.

LACP: What do you love most about teaching?

KC: It’s always been the participants/students . Plus I enjoy looking at work, discussing art, technique, and ideas. To me possibilities are always exciting, and it’s fun go on fieldtrips and walkabouts.

LACP: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?

KC: The lovely thing about contemporary photography is it can be fulfilling and work relatively seamlessly into a life as an avocation or a vocation. If you choose it as your vocation… well then I’d say, “Onward…and go straight at ‘em.”