Between spits of rain on Monday afternoon, Edward Keating stepped out onto his porch in Menemsha, humming lightly as he flipped through boxes of photographs spread across his outdoor dining table. Faint beams of sunlight penetrated through the clouds, casting light on the hundreds of photographs that filled the boxes and sat in frames strewn across his covered deck.
Since 1981 Mr. Keating has traveled the world taking photographs as a staff photographer for the New York Times and frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, Time Magazine and New York Magazine. He even co-founded the Vows wedding column in the New York Times. But he is perhaps best known for his gritty street photography done in New York city.
Although much of his work was done in black and white, the images in the boxes also included photographs bursting with color. His Pulitzer Prize-winning black and white photograph of a tea set covered in ash from the collapsed World Trade Center sits side by side with playful photographs taken from across Martha’s Vineyard.
On Friday evening, many of these photos will go on display at the Island Images Gallery in Oak Bluffs. The exhibit will feature work spanning Mr. Keating’s whole career, from the early 1980s through this summer.
Although Mr. Keating has been working as a professional photographer for more than 30 years, and coming to the Vineyard since he was 16 years old, this will be the first time displaying his work in an Island gallery.
For many years, Mr. Keating refrained from taking photos on the Island, other than casual shots of his family. It wasn’t until last summer that he started extending his photography business onto the Island, taking photographs and selling prints at flea markets.
“I had always had trouble shooting down here because I’m this surly, aggressive, New York city street photographer,” said Mr. Keating. “I’m used to having fights with doormen and cops and people on the streets. It’s not even that that wouldn’t work here, it’s just that I don’t want to be in that state of mind here.”
Until this point, Mr. Keating had been shooting almost exclusively 35mm black and white film. As he adapted his work to fit with the laid-back vacation state of mind on the Vineyard, he started to shoot with the camera on his iPhone. Basic photography apps such as Instagram forced him to relearn everything that he knew about photography, including the simple question of what makes a great photograph.
While Mr. Keating’s photojournalism work focused on capturing complex situations, his iPhone photography looks at far simpler subjects. Rather than looking at the greater context of a moment, the square frame forces him to zone in on a specific object. The basic format brings with it new challenges, but has opened Mr. Keating’s eyes to an entirely new realm of photography.
“I don’t know what a good picture of a tree is yet, I don’t know what a good picture of a rock is yet, but what I do know is there are great pictures to be made,” said Mr. Keating. “In a sense, I’m very much a beginner in trying to come up with a whole new logic for what constitutes a great picture.”
The gallery reception for Edward Keating is Friday, July 18, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Island Images Gallery, 56 Narragansett avenue, Oak Bluffs. Call 508-696-7772.