Tony Keeler Biography


Tony Keeler (Glen Ridge, 1933 – Sitges, 2016)

Of North American origin, Herbert Keeler-Klipstein, artistically known as Tony Keeler, developed his career in Catalonia, contributing significantly to Spain’s photographic heritage. Keeler’s bold style and unique technique of creating striking black and white contrasts provide an unmistakable stamp to his images. Prominent amongst a wide range of themes, are his powerful close up portraits which have required an extreme proximity of lens and photographed face.

After graduating in Political Science from Harvard University (1956), Keeler began to express his interest in photography by studying the discipline at the William Mortensen school of Photography. However, it was not until 1960 when Keeler decided to abandon other projects to become a professional photographer. That year, he emigrated with his newly founded family to settle in Catalonia, where he inaugurated his first photographic studio in the coastal town of Sitges.

Keeler combined his work as a portraitist with photographing everything that caught his interest. Thus, his passion for flamenco drove him to make recurring visits to Andalusia, where he captured the atmosphere of rural villages and the “duende” of legendary flamenco artists like Diego del Gastor and Fernanda de Utrera.

From his base in Sitges, Keeler frequented the coastal town of Cadaqués, which was and is to this day, a meeting point for artists. Keeler’s photographs offer a personal perspective of the unique environment of Cadaqués during the 60s and 70s with Salvador Dalí as focal figure.

In 1970, Tony Keeler discovered Ibiza and was immediately captivated by the island. There, he combined his photographic work with the coordination of his gallery “Studio Keeler”, located in the port of the island. An offspring of this period is the book “Ibiza a Dream”, where Keeler expresses his most poetic facet.

Between 1980 and 1985, Keeler made numerous trips to Asia and Latin America, collecting illustrative images of different environments and cultures. Between 1985 and 20o5, Keeler focused his photographic interest in sub-Saharan Africa, and travelled in different stages throughout the regions of the Sahel, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, portraying the unique characteristics of these cultures.

During his university years, Keeler had visited Cuba with a fellow student who was native of the island. Three decades later, in 1988, Keeler returned to Cuba and discovered that many of the elements that had attracted him in his stays of the 50s were still intact. From then on, he returned to the island on several occasions to capture the Cuban culture of the 90s, with its complexities, as well as its beauty and charm.

If we observe the evolution of Tony Keeler’s style, we see that shortly after opening his first photographic studio in 1960, he abandons the technique learned with Mortensen (dark images with a texture similar to that of a pencil drawing) and from 1962, he starts to manifest a personal style in which light and strong black and white contrasts prevail. Tony Keeler used to say that his passion for photography began the day when, while still a student, he discovered the book “Tipos y Trajes” by José Ortiz Echagüe in his university library. He was captivated by the impeccable technique of the master, as well as the humanistic and poetic content of the images. Another important reference for Keeler was Walker Evans. Like his admired predecessors, Keeler focused mainly on the human factor, selecting his subjects intuitively to explore their essence and finding common elements between women and men of different backgrounds.