Photographer Keith Carter has lived in East Texas for most of his life, and the work that first gained him notice largely comprised portraits and documentary-style explorations of small, crossroads towns in Texas and on the Louisiana border. Those black-and-white images feature farmers with a pickup truck full of watermelons, a child holding a rooster, a baptism in a river, ghostlike dogs, wild creatures and dirt roads.
“I think of it as the poetry of the ordinary,” Carter says. “Lots of work I’ve done comes from the backdrop of the storytelling culture in which I grew up on the Louisiana-Texas border. It has mystifying spirituality, abundant folklore and rich allegory. That’s how I look at things.”
Carter collects work spanning his career in his forthcoming book “Keith Carter Fifty Years” (due in January 2019 from University of Texas Press) and he’ll have a limited number of early copies at an opening reception for a show of his recent work titled “All the Beautiful Imperfect Things” at A Gallery for Fine Photography 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Saturday. Carter also will deliver a keynote address at PhotoNOLA, the annual photography festival at local galleries and museums, at 7 p.m. Thursday at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Carter says he’s giving an overview of photography’s early years to its current practice and why he thinks the art form matters.
“One process has always replaced another,” he says. “The irony is that not one of them has disappeared and there’s more interest in antiquated processes than ever before.”
All sorts of photographs are on display in exhibitions included under the PhotoNOLA umbrella. Shows run for weeks to months at local venues, but the festival features a series of events Dec. 12-15, including several artist talks on photography techniques and art world trends.
“December is becoming known as the time for photography in New Orleans,” says PhotoNOLA Creative Director Jennifer Shaw.
New Orleans joins a handful of American cities with prominent photography festivals, such as Chicago and Portland, Oregon. Houston’s FotoFest is the nation’s oldest and best known photo festival.
PhotoNOLA includes more than 60 exhibits at galleries, museums, libraries and alternative spaces across New Orleans. Chicago photographer Patty Carroll’s “Domestic Demise” show is at a Mid-City residence, which is called the House of Noodles, and there’s an opening reception at 8 p.m. Thursday. Atlanta photographer Sheila Pree Bright has an expo juxtaposing portraits of 1960s civil rights leaders and Black Lives Matters activists. Bright delivers a lecture and signs her book “#1960NOW” (Chronicle) at the Historic New Orleans Collection’s Williams Research Center at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Ogden Museum of Southern art currently is running its “New Southern Photography” exhibit. The Ogden also hosts two PhotoNOLA events. There’s an opening reception for “Currents,” an expo of work by New Orleans Photo Alliance members, at 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday. It is followed by the Photowalk, in which more than 70 photographers participating in the festival’s portfolio review display and discuss their work.
Other events include a Photobook Fair in which artists and publishers present their books from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday at The Advocate’s event space on St. Charles Avenue. A festival gala with an auction and entertainment by Thomas Glass, Quianna Lynell and La Mancha Jazz Band is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Orpheum Theater. A full list of exhibitions, artist talks and events is on the festival website.