We had the good fortune of connecting with Thomas Carr and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Thomas, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I think I chose to pursue an artistic career at a very early age. I’ve always consider art a way of life. I enjoyed drawing when I was young, and while I had some talent, I could tell it wasn’t my passion. I remember first being interested in taking photographs when I was around 12 years old, and it quickly became my passion. By age 15 I had my own darkroom and was showing my photographs in school art exhibitions, and in 1982 I was selected by the National YoungArts foundation as a “Promising Young Artist in Visual Arts”. Everyone thought I was going to be a professional photographer for a living, myself included, and for my first two years in college I was heading in that direction. I studied photography, filmmaking, and art history, but I also took anthropology classes. Then in the winter of 1985 while hiking deep in the woods of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, I came across the stone ruins of an 18th-century plantation house. I was so intrigued that I ended up volunteering on an archaeological research project at the site the following Spring. After that I change majors to anthropology. Friends and family were surprised that I was giving up on photography as my career, but I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as an opportunity to blend my artistic and scientific interests. I saw it as a way to keep my artistic work more authentic to my personal vision by not having to worry about making my work commercial. I then went on to earn a BA and MA in anthropology and I have worked as a professional archaeologist for almost 30 years. Throughout my career I’ve endeavored to pursue projects that synthesize art and science. Some of these projects include the study archaeological sites using aerial and satellite imagery, documenting abandoned historic places and sacred landscapes, Ancestral Puebloan sites, massacre sites from the Plains Indian Wars, the archaeology of toys, Cold War era sites, and homeless camps in the Front Range Area. I’ve also created more impressionistic bodies of work that are explorations of concepts like nature and solitude, and the idea that the human and natural environments interact through time in way that are subtly yet powerful. While there have been many challenges navigating a life where I synthesized my artistic passion with my professional career, it’s been fully worth it.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My artwork is a synthesis of photography and anthropology/archaeology. As a young photographer in the 1980s, I found myself drawn towards making images of places with subtle indications of a past human presence. This led to my pursuit of a career in archaeology, which has allowed me to visit many significant historic sites and associated landscapes. Having been trained in photography, I endeavor to document the essence of these places in visual terms. This subtle sense of presence is what I seek in my photography. I’ve applied this approach to a variety of projects over my 40 year career. I have two major types of portfolios that I create – these are straight film based photography, typically large or medium format, as well as more impressionistic/abstract work that uses digital composites. With respects to career achievements, my research was supported with various grants and scholarships. My MA thesis was published in 1996 in an internationally peer-reviewed professional journal, and was covered by the media in Earth Magazine, the Denver Post, the London Times, and the Christian Science Monitor. I have since written many articles and reports about my archaeological research and photography, and I have been the invited speaker at a number of science conferences. Additionally, my photography has received a number of awards and honors with numerous invited solo exhibitions at major cultural institutions such as the Center of Southwest Studies in Durango, the University of Denver Museum of Anthropology, the Farmington Museum, the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Museum, the Ute Indian Museum, the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, the Denver Public Library Western Art Gallery, the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center; as well as invited group shows at the Mizel Museum, Durango Arts Center, Arvada Center, Open Shutter Gallery, and finally dozens of juried exhibitions. Finally, my filmmaking work has been recognized with screenings at film festivals in the USA, Belgium, and France.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Being interested in nature and history, I am drawn to public parks and open spaces, especially places with historic buildings. I especially like the Denver Mountain Parks. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My loving wife Laurie and our wonderful sons Andrew (18) and James (12).