Solo Exhibition – Richard Keis: Livelihoods

Where: Corrine Woodman Gallery at The Arts Center
When: October 13 – November 21, 2020

Richard Keis is a Corvallis photographer, who is mostly interested in
photographing people. Because he is living half the year in Oaxaca, and
half the year in Corvallis (Covid19 brought him to his first winter in Corvallis
since years) he has concentrated on a project about working people in
Mexico, specifically on trades that seem to be disappearing. He is
influenced by his late wife Marie Keis-LeGlatin, who was always sketching
wherever they travelled. For Keis the connections and friendships he has
made through his work are as much part of his photography work as the
photo’s themselves.

In his own words:

Livelihoods is a photography project in progress of working people in
Oaxaca, Mexico. It consists of black and white portraits of artisans and
workers who decided to stay in their homeland with their families and the culture they love instead of migrating northward in search of the American Dream. Among those photographed are weavers, sculptors, feather artists, mezcal producers and curanderas. They are talented, hard working people who take great pride in what they do to earn a living. I have photographed and interviewed over thirty people, taking two photos of each person, one photo with a formal backdrop, typical of early Mexican portraiture, and one photo of the person at work.

I have been working on this project for over four years and have an exhibit of my work scheduled in the Centro Cultural San Pablo in Oaxaca in 2020.

I was inspired by the 1974 publication of Working, by Studs Terkel.
Whereas many of Terkel’s subjects felt their work was not appreciated and at times demeaning, all of those that I photographed and interviewed in Oaxaca took much pride in their work. They felt a sense of dignity in what they did or created.

The issue of migration weighs heavily on our minds these days. For the
most part, Mexicans are viewed as people having a strong work ethic that cross the border northward to do the work that many Americans do not want to do: agricultural labor, roofing, construction, and the service
industry. They are sought after as honest and diligent workers.

The photographs in this exhibit are examples of the (extra) ordinary people in Mexico who work long hours six days a week to provide for themselves and their families. Very few have a pension to rely on in their golden years, so they continue working until they are no longer able. Their family is their safety net. Because of the advancements in technology and changes that have occurred in Mexican society, many of these occupations are in danger of disappearing. It is my hope that these photographs can help document and preserve ways of life that define Mexicans as a people and as a nation.

You can read more at “Moving On” the blog Keis maintains about his photography project.