Photographer Keeley Parenteau has a knack for quietly standing out. A woman of few words, just a few minutes spent viewing her work on her Instagram profile portrays someone who is more than happy to let her art do the talking for her. Her photo captions are minimalist, often spawning less than 5 words. Yet, the photos themselves capture depths of humanity that words bear inability of tapping into. Keeley’s work mirrors the spirit of a person who has much more to say than their demeanor would imply. Through a simple photograph, she illustrates that art not only speaks louder than words; it gives the world meaning that it otherwise wouldn’t possess. Using her camera as her vessel, she captures the human species in its most unguarded state, authenticating the idea that vulnerability makes up an essential part of who we are.
Growing up in San Fransisco, Keeley explored her creative passions from an early age. “I wasn’t super social. I’d just kind of stay in my room and watch movies,” she states, reflecting back on her high school years. Elaborating on her deep interest in film, she went on to state that she loved directors along with the visuals of it all. When her dad bought her first camera for her 16th birthday, she thought her calling was to be a film director. After graduating high school, Keeley came to Chicago, where she enrolled at Columbia College to study Film. While attending Columbia, Keeley started to discover that she had a true love for Photography. Speaking on this newfound discovery, Keeley explained, “It’s easier to take pictures for me personally and build a portfolio taking pictures of things versus writing a script, getting a crew, and filming a movie on a little DSLR.” Keeley went on to switch over to Photojournalism during her Sophomore year at Columbia.
Keeley incorporates many combinations of visual effects, backdrops and use of lighting into her work. No two photos are exactly the same. However, her work is bound together by a common thread, and that is the sobering aesthetic captured in the faces of her models. She rejects the societal expectation of smiling in a photo. Instead, she opts for pure, unscripted moments that illustrate the fragility of the human core. Her work is as raw and unforgiving as the Director’s Cut of an unrated horror movie. Regarding the honesty she portrays in her work, Keeley states, “I think there’s something fascinating about someone who isn’t smiling in a photo. I think something really interesting too is natural moments. I don’t really direct my models. I’m looking for emotion that’s subtle.” It can seem as though Keeley the artist is a lot more serious than Keeley the person. In the middle of our interview, after coming across a question she had no clue how to answer, she paused, stating: “God, I suck at interviewing, I’m so sorry!” Following that up with a laugh, noting that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Despite a lighthearted personality, she does acknowledge that some of her struggles with mental health pop up in her work in an indirect way. “I’m not a very serious person, but my photography is. I focus mostly on people, so the expressions on their faces are usually pretty serious or sad. I think part of me using interesting colors and sad faces, or any kind of mix of that is like, possibly me…. I suffer from depression, so I think that might be a subconscious influence on portraying people in that light.” In some ways, Keeley the artist is synonymous with Keeley the person. There is much more to her than what is seen on the surface. An individual infused with depth and complexity. Of course, these are traits that show up in all humans, and what Keeley does best is bring these innately human traits to life through her work.
Keeley constantly catching her peers in the most natural of moments reflects the work of someone who takes life one day at a time. However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t looking towards the future, and what lies on her horizon is quite grandiose. “The coolest thing ever would be to travel around the world and take pictures. To be able to influence politics and being involved with that world and see history on the front lines, that’s my dream.” In short, Keeley wants to get involved with a type of Photography called Conflict Photography. Conflict Photography is the idea of photographing violent conflict, and portraying the consequences it has on its surrounding areas. Elaborating on this in her own words she states, “Conflict Photography is a general thing, but I’d say it’s almost Photojournalism. There are some Photographers who have taken pictures of domestic abuse victims, sexual assault victims or victims of war.” Keeley is focused on living out these aspirations one day, but she isn’t necessarily in a rush to get there. For now, she is going where the road takes her, and she seems to be content with where she’s at. She is a full-time student, also holding a job as a Photographer at an independent music label. She said that she’ll be around Chicago for at least a few more years. As for contacting her to set up a shoot? “Instagram is the best way to contact me. It’s usually what I work through. If people just want Individual shoots, they just DM me.” Links to her Instagram and Flickr accounts are posted below.
Flickr Page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/139620329@N03/
Photo Credits: All Pictures Taken By Keeley Parenteau
Model Credits: Logan Beck, @don0rphan, JBro Bugatti, Steven Walsh, Marko Stats
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