Emily Keegin is a fantastically compelling, Brooklyn-based photographer who grew up in San Francisco and studied in Vermont (at Bennington College) and in London (at the Royal College of Art, where she earned an MA in 2009). While the focus of her work has shifted greatly since she first started taking pictures, a few threads recur consistently: the spaces between public and private realms, the quiet elements and artifacts of domestic life (and the secrets they reveal), and the ongoing complexities of American girlhood. Emily’s work has recently appeared in the “Humble Arts Collectors Guide” (Chelsea Museum) and in the “Women in Art Photography UK” exhibition (Taschen Book Store, London UK). After you’ve read her interview and checked out her website (note: features potentially NSFW artful nakedness) be sure to take a look at her lists. Otherwise, we’re thrilled that Emily has allowed us to show three brand new/untitled images for the first time! They’re the last three in the below article:
Listgeeks: What first inspired you to take pictures?
Emily Keegin: My parents were fantastically rigid in their whole-grain anti-pop aesthetic. As a reaction, I became obsessed with American cheese and fast art. The camera is the world’s greatest tool for making pop art. It’s forever linked to its other role as a lowly household appliance, and yet: SO SHINY! And – as it happens – I’m a terrible draftsman. Those who can’t draw take pictures.
Listgeeks: What was your first camera?
Emily Keegin: A 1987 purple 110 Vivitar, which I got at age 7. Vivitar is a terrible gateway drug.
LG: It seems like much of your early (pre-MFA) work revolved around mostly domestic themes – people and places close to you, perhaps – but that you were also mostly interested in depicting their less obvious aspects. Does that make sense?
EK: Photography was invented to capture the moment between moments, to stretch the human second and preserve the otherwise overlooked. Even though much of my work (then and now) is staged – or at least “still”- I remain linked to the intrinsic nature of of the medium. Also, it’s true: I’m a snoop. I like the stuff that’s under the bed.
LG: In the “Homeland” series, which was part of your MFA program at The Royal College of Art, you incorporate and juxtapose typically American and typically unAmerican things. How did being in London while you were making those images shape how they turned out?
EK: Working outside of the united states was crucial for the construction of “Homeland.” The newness of London forced me to take aesthetic risks I wouldn’t dared to otherwise, and the physical distance allowed for a distillation of the American culture I was so keen on analyzing. I am easily overwhelmed by the largeness of things. Being outside of the states allowed me to deal with it in small, digestible pieces.
LG: Does the newer, post-London work you’re currently featuring on your site deal with some of the same themes as “Homeland?”
EK: Totally. I’m still working through the same ideas I was in “Homeland”- the fame, failure & aging of American girlhood – but am now using a slightly different vocabulary. I think this is due primarily to a very short haircut I gave myself right before leaving London. With short hair, the self portraits I had come to use as totems in my work didn’t have the same zing. In their stead, I began working in still life and the occasional sculpture.
LG: On your blog you document a seriously wide range of images and projects that seem to inspire you in one way or another. Are there specific photographers or artists who have been especially important to you lately?
EK: I love the work of Liz Deschenes – though finding her images online is not so easy. Lucas Blalock and the rest of the common language guys are excellent tightrope walkers (commercial meets art meets meats). Viviane Sassen makes perfect portraits. Walead Beshty makes art that’s good in all ways. Always and forever: Ed.
LG: Finally, your images (both from “Homeland,” so far) have adorned two vinyl singles covers from the NYC-based band Cookies (fronted by Ben Sterling, formerly of Mobius Band). Does relating them to music give you a different sense of what the images are about? Is the feedback to them in that context very different from the kind of feedback you’d get in a traditional gallery setting?
EK: Strangely, the boombox image was created in the midst of a body of work about pop music and memory. The photograph was in every way an accident/a slow Saturday messing around in my studio/a film-test-gone-interesting/the kind of accident that you pray for. It was through the creation of this photograph that I began to shift away from music and toward a larger discussion of pop media and femininity. It seems very tidy that the subsequent body of work has found its home on album covers.