Anthony Rea

How long have you been a photographic artist?

Since 2002

What drew you to photography as a form of expression?

The initial draw to photography was my grandfather. He always had a camera at our family gatherings and just whenever he wanted to photograph. He had a Brownie for much of it and also a Polaroid camera with the peel-apart film (those were fun). That initially caught my attention. I was then lucky enough to attend Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts and learn from a fantastic teacher named Kathleen Mendenhall. One day she brought in a guest artist by the name of Bill Gaskins, who recently published a book of photographs, and I learned he was going to be a professor at UMKC. So I went – and learned from Bill Gaskins until I felt it was time to leave Kansas City. After moving to Chicago to attend The School of the Art Institute Chicago, I was motivated by the teachings of Barbara DeGenevieve – an interdisciplinary artist and professor at SAIC. She challenged me to ask bigger questions and take broader approaches in my artmaking. Teachers & educators ultimately impacted me and drew me into photography as one of many tools that I could use to communicate my ideas.

Are there any artists or art styles that help inspire your work?

I’m a big fan of Dawoud Bey, Bill Gaskins, Kimsooja, two very dear artist friends of mine – Maria Gaspar and William Estrada, along with the work of Dolores Salcedo to name a few.

Has your work seen any transitions or transformations from when you first began in this medium? If so, in what way?

I mean, as an artist or photographer – transitions and transformation are essential. In my community work, I have learned to trust the process – to relinquish control and allow people (my collaborators) to insert themselves and make with me. That was huge – for myself and anyone really because, as artists, we are told that we alone are the authors of our work. Now, does that make it difficult to “sell” what I do? Yes! So making sure I work on my writing skills for grant writing has been necessary. Ambiguity was a vital transition/transformation for me. I had to come to terms that my work wasn’t one or another. That I somehow situated my artmaking in this weird location. I’m not only a photographer, and I’m not a certified teacher, I’m not just an artist, I’m not a counselor – I work with and in communities and youth but I’m not entirely an organizer. I also cannot always sign my work. I had to become comfortable and confident working in this ambiguous location for 18 years now.

With the quarantine in place, how are you using your photography to deal with being in isolation?

I honestly have not done much photographic work during this time. Once I gathered my initial emotions and anxiety, I decided to use the time to focus on my Teaching Artists’ work and plan for more virtual instruction with the cadre of Teaching Artists and Youth Advocates I work with at the Mattie Rhodes Center. However, I did recently make it a point to go out and photograph more. To forget the big projects and themes and make photographs for myself – alone (social distancing and all). What’s funny is that it helped spark another idea I’ve had for some time – to offer photo-walks. I have been working out a plan to start offering photo-walks with a group I am a part of here called Brown Voices/Brown Pulse. I wanted to create a space where other QTPOC can gather and make photographs together – a more intentional opportunity to get out and see ourselves using photography. With social distancing, I am figuring out the structure so we can all stay safe. I do enjoy working with people – it’s a thing! Simultaneously, at the start of this whole pandemic and stay-at-home orders, I was helping my mother clean out her basement when I found a small child’s sewing machine. It encouraged me to sew some masks, but I could not figure it out, and after spending two days and countless videos, I realized I was missing an essential piece to the machine. So I tossed it out and went to Missouri Sewing Machine and purchased my very first sewing machine. I then clicked on YouTube university and learned how to sew! Mostly I give them away to family/friends, and whoever might need one – I sell them here and there, but mostly they’re free. So if you want a mask – let me know!

What else would you like us to know about you and your work?

I like to consider myself (still) a re-transplant from Chicago. I’m originally from Kansas City’s Westside community, and now I am back (five years now). It has taken some time to get into my groove here, and in many ways – I am still learning the city and the art community. I describe myself as a Community-based Multi-Disciplinary Photographer & Teaching Artist. I feel privileged to have made a career working with youth, families, and teachers through photography and other community-based practices.

Please list any social media you would like us to tag as well as a link to your website.

IG: @anthonymarcosrea

Website: Anthony Marcos Rea