Tommy Keith (b. 1993) is a photographer and filmmaker currently based in Toronto, ON. He received a BFA in Film Production from Concordia University in 2016. His work explores personal histories and familial relationships using photography and moving images.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Success Strategies
“Success Strategies” is a series of pictures made in southern Ontario that explores the relationship between myself and my family. Growing up, I was aware that I was conceived by means of a sperm donation clinic, and starting in high school I began to meet other siblings through online DNA registry websites who share the same donor as I do. The three half-brothers that I’ve met, Brendan, Gregory, and Jake, all share the same anonymous donor as I do but have been raised in different environments and by different families. With this project, I’m drawing on my parents’ history of working in the sales business and from my upbringing in an environment that promoted self-improvement to explore how I relate to the different sides of my family. By photographing myself, my half-siblings, and my parents, I’m creating an alternative version of what a contemporary family looks like through performative and staged photographs. How do personal histories complicate or simplify relationships between loved ones? What effect does one’s family and/or upbringing have on who a person becomes? These are some questions I'm working through in this project.
When and where did Success Strategies begin?
These pictures in particular were made between April and November of this year in Restoule, Huntsville, and Toronto. A lot of my past work has dealt with similar topics that this project is about, so I don’t necessarily think of these pictures as having a definitive start date. During my undergrad I was making documentary-based films about myself and other members of my family, so there has been a lot of overlap between my past and present work.
Where do you see this project going?
Lately, I’ve been photographing myself alongside my parents and half-brothers, and it’s made me really excited about where I could take this further. Earlier this year, I found myself getting creatively stuck by using the camera in a traditional documentary sense; by capturing the world as it was happening around me. I’ve since been using the camera to express ideas from my imagination and from my writing instead. Funnily enough, I think the pictures have still ended up looking like they were made in a rather straightforward documentary style, however, I’m pushing them to become more performative and they have certainly come from a more pre-conceived place. A lot of this work has resulted from experimenting and trying new things, and from searching for solutions as to why other pictures weren’t working the way I wanted them to. So, I don’t know exactly where this project will go, but that’s exactly what is continuing to challenge and excite me.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
I work as a 2nd Assistant Camera in film and television, so that pays the bills and covers the cost of film/scanning/days spent making work. I find a lot of inspiration online from other artists and also from my friends, but reading been the most helpful in keeping me creatively inspired. Encouragement and honest critique also help.
What’s next for you?
Mainly just preparing to apply to grad school. Besides that I will be working for money, making new work for myself, and trying to enjoy a break from both of these.