Keith A. Barker
Keith A. Barker, M.F.A.
M.F.A. Savannah College of Art and Design 2000
B.A. Asbury College 1991
TOWN: a portrait.
The earliest photographs, called Daguerreotypes, were shadowy images, typically portraits, made on shiny silver-coated copper plates. The high amount of detail is unmatched even by today’s standards. It is easy to understand because of the daguerreotype’s reflection back to the viewer why they were nicknamed “magic mirrors.” It’s as if the subject’s gaze was frozen or “fixed” onto the image, and the dim reflection remains as a remembrance. The camera has always been prized for its ability to remember, and thereby reflect, what is important to us, which explains its consistent presence at life’s movements and changes. Remembering and reflecting are a sacred act.
In this stilled reflection of a town in perpetual motion, we see a snow-laden playground reflecting memories of my own childhood, along with the pastimes of my children. Real estate developments and major construction projects show a town in flux and set to sprawl across fields of green space. An older, wiser generation ages and imparts knowledge and perspective, while my own generation strives to learn from and build on the past. A college town inherently sees many come and go, but those left here pass on remembrances and create histories, desiring to belong and seek genuine relationships and deeper roots despite the transience. Prominent community members are featured alongside those less-known but no less important or worthy. Snowy gravestones remind us of the unique and colorful Cloud of Witnesses who cheer us on through it all, outside of time.
The root word for portrait is to portray, and these images portray the “now”—our town in this moment. However, the passage of time also turns up through evidence of the past, along with hints at the future. The story here is a dim and fragmented one; a work-in-progress designed to draw out and bring together the breadth and depth of innumerable Town experiences.
Each of us included in this collective of Wilmore citizens is a historian of sorts, and has a perspective to add to the dialogue. Virtually everyone I encountered has offered suggestions about who and what should be remembered in our collective story. While I could never fulfill all their ideas (nor did I get to all my own, either), it is my hope that this exhibit would precipitate genuine dialogue, and helps us consider: What now? Viewers are also encouraged to talk about their own reflections, as well as who or what is missing by contributing to the Story Board on the other side of the room.
Each one of us would portray this town very differently if given the chance. In the “now,” we each see life dimly reflected as in a mirror, and from different facets and perspectives. As we share our collective remembrances, a richer, more complete story emerges. We await a time when we will know fully, and be fully known.
—Keith A. Barker, Wilmore, Kentucky.
View more images at www.kbarkerphoto.com
©2008–2013 Keith A. Barker