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A Certain Alchemy

Luna Moth by Keith Carter
Luna Moth, 2007, by Keith Carter

OCTOBER 17, 2009 – MARCH 13, 2010
A CERTAIN ALCHEMY: Photographs by Keith Carter

There is an element of magic in photography—light, chemistry, precious metals—a certain alchemy. You can wield a camera almost like a magic wand. Murmur the right words and you can conjure up proof of a dream.      —KEITH CARTER—

Lauded as “a transcendent realist” and “a poet of the ordinary,” internationally acclaimed photographer Keith Carter uses light and chemistry to reveal hidden meanings in the real world. Drawing from the nature of animals, popular culture, folklore, and religion, his pictures explore relationships that are timeless, enigmatic, and mythological. A Certain Alchemy presents more than 60 images from Carter’s 2008 monograph published in the Wittliff’s Southwestern & Mexican Photography Series with the University of Texas Press.

These toned silver-gelatin photographs are part of the Keith Carter archive at the Wittliff Collections. Begun in 1995, it currently comprises over 1,100 of Carter’s prints—the largest archive of his work in the world. The most complete holding of supplementary Carter materials is also at the Wittliff, including publications featuring his work (serials as well as books), and ephemera such as discarded prints he’s used for notes and correspondence.

A Certain Alchemy by Keith Carter is the eleventh book in the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Series originating from the Wittliff Collections. Bill Wittliff, the series editor, wrote the introduction; the afterword is by Patricia Carter, Keith’s wife. A Certain Alchemy is the Wittliff Collections’ third Keith Carter monograph. The book series premiered in 1997 with Keith Carter: Twenty-five Years, and his Ezekiel’s Horse was released three years later, in 2000. The UT Press production archives for all three books are held at the Wittliff Collections, and all of the published photographs are part of the permanent holdings.

KEITH CARTER holds the endowed Walles Chair of Visual and Performing Arts at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and among his many honors are a 2009 Texas Medal of Arts Award and the Lange-Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. His previous books are: A Certain Alchemy, Holding Venus, Ezekiel’s Horse, Keith Carter Photographs: Twenty-Five Years, Bones, Heaven of Animals, Mojo, The Blue Man, and From Uncertain to Blue. In addition to his large archive at the Wittliff, Carter’s work is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the George Eastman House.