Keliy Anderson-Staley's ongoing project called, "[hyphen] Americans" is a series of tintype portraits. The tintype is an elemental process from photography's early history that pre dates film. Each image is a one of a kind print onto a thin sheet of metal or glass and chemically developed by hand. What you see here is a tiny example of the thousands of portraits she has made over the years. Several of the portraits shown here were taken while she came as a guest speaker and artist to the Southeast Museum of Photography where I was fortunate enough to sit for her myself.
"It is important, I think, to study with mentors and to learn the history of the medium you work in. You can do this on your own, of course, but careers are easier to establish when you've worked with institutions and when you can point to your years in school as training. At Hunter College, the photography grad students were a small group among the artists getting their MFA, so there was also a lot of interdisciplinary dialogue going on. Crits are especially helpful when you need to justify your work to someone working in an entirely different medium. Finally, when you study in a program, you leave with a bunch of natural connections--and hopefully friends whose careers will grow alongside yours."
"During undergrad I decided I wanted to go into education -- I was a teaching assistant for three different classes and really enjoyed it. Students come to photography with a great deal of enthusiasm. I like teaching them how to channel that into work that has meaning. I think most people who pursue a masters degree in an art form plan to do some teaching. My students often become a part of my work by sitting for tintype portraits. I also feel that I have learned a lot from students over the years."
"Many of my earliest subjects were friends, but gradually by word of mouth, more people wanted to be a part of my project. I also have done a lot of shooting at museums, nonprofits and colleges around the country, and many of my portraits I made at these places."
"When I show the images, I think about which ones work best with each other--what selection shows the full range of the project and how do they look together? When the tintypes are installed, you can't help but find uncanny resemblances between people (even ones who at first seem very different), and I like to encourage this with what images I include and which are shown next to each other."
"I have over a thousand tintype portraits now. When they aren't being exhibited, they are all filed in draws in file cabinets in my studio. They take up a significant amount of space, and because they are all on metal or glass, the whole archive is extremely heavy."