Kenneth Guthrie obtained his MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2019 where he also worked as a Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Prior, he received his BFA in Studio Art from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2016. His work focuses on personal identity, desire, and relationships through performance and constructed-based imagery. His work has been exhibited nationally at Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC), LATITUDE | Chicago, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), among others. His work has been published in PDNedu Magazine, Communication Arts Magazine, and Photographer's Forum. He is living and working in Chicago, IL.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: The Way You Look at Me
Creating images of my partner and myself, I explore the nature of personal identity within an intimate relationship. The Way You Look at Me reflects upon expectations of gender expression and performativity through the lens of a queer code. I construct portraits and self-portraits possessing reciprocal and nonreciprocal gazes, calling the viewer to embody my relationship. Multiple points-of-view accompanied with gesture transform the viewing experience from voyeuristic to participatory, while atmospheric images of objects signify fleeting moments and elicit introspection. The installation emphasizes this concept as scale and vantage points vary, forcing the viewer to weave in and out of the picture plane, creating tension throughout the scene. Implementing myself as a model allows me to reference personal memories from my upbringing and the consequences of those experiences. Aware of being gay at a young age, I struggled with either accepting my true identity or conforming to masculine/feminine expectations that came with growing up Southern Baptist. I would sneak into my mother’s bedroom to wear a dress or high heels, but felt pressure to wear straight-legged jeans with plaid button-ups to construct straightness for safety from everyday life. By engaging in multiple acts of self-fashioning, I question the role of representation and true identity within photography and how this influences the act of looking at others.
When and where did The Way You Look at Me begin?
This project began in graduate school, where I really started to see it flourish and refine itself after my program's first year. Initially, I knew I wanted to make work that dealt with my sexuality, the struggles of growing up queer in the South's Bible Belt, and how I was dealing with my own perceptions of self love and desire currently. At first, I would go to Tinder or Grindr in an attempt to find models to stand in as a sexual partner, trying to work out ideas of shame and insecurity. I met my boyfriend on one of the apps, which was quite unexpected. We spent many nights making intimate polaroids of each other, which turned into setting aside a couple of hours almost every day to sit for a portrait or construct a scene I saw in my head. I had never documented a relationship in this way, so It I relied heavily on intuition, letting go of what I might have constructed in my head if it wasn’t working, and letting instinct take over.
Where do you see this project going?
I consider this project to be ongoing, as there are many photographs I would still like to make for the series. I've started making performance-based video work with similar themes to The Way You Look at Me project, and I'm also thinking a lot about installation when exhibiting the work. The project is currently being exhibited with my colleagues' work in our Master's Thesis Exhibition at Hokin Gallery, Columbia College Chicago. I'm currently submitting proposals for solo and/or group exhibitions as well as publications. I'm also interested in working on a book form of the project.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
Participating within an active and supportive community sustains my practice. Showing up to art openings, panel discussions, and other events allow me to learn about new artists, get inspired by my favorite ones, and fuel my overall love for the arts. Working at the Museum of Contemporary Photography as a Curatorial Assistant was very special considering I worked with art objects from photographers that I admired and others I didn't know. I think my overall passion and desire to be making or involved is what keeps my going.
What’s next for you?
I have a couple of publications and interviews in the works for when after I graduate. Currently, I'm transitioning out of graduate school, so I'm mostly applying for work and exhibitions.