About Andrew Kilgore
“I’m always surprised when I’m talking to somebody about photography and realize that they don’t understand what it means to see light.”
Andrew has been taking pictures since 1968. Born in Virginia in 1940, he went to grade school in Illinois, high school in El Paso, Texas, and studied philosophy at Earlham College in Indiana. In New York, he studied theology at Union Theological Seminary and acting with Stella Adler, and worked as a minister for a year in Vermont before going to India with the Peace Corps in 1966.
On his return journey from India in 1968, in Hong Kong, he bought his first camera -- a Pentax Spotmatic.
One day while serving in India with the Peace Corps, he was squattingin the dirt waiting for the bus to his village when he saw a strange stick figure materialize through the veil of heat mirage far off down the road. It was a very old, low caste, Indian man. He was tiny, terribly thin, dressed in nothing but a rag. Andrew, a 27-year-old American, sat in the dirt watching the man coming closer, step by step, in the tortured heat and sun of the dusty road. This lean brown frame, with calloused feet and a heavy basket balanced on his head, drew up to Andrew and lowered himself to the ground beside him.
In that moment, Andrew realized that nowhere on the earth could he find a person more different than himself than this man. Here was a person more unlike him than anyone else could possibly be. Yet he realized with a shock, in that same moment, that what he experienced was not his difference -- but his sameness. “His most basic inner experience of himself and my most basic experience of myself, stripped of all culture and personal history, were exactly the same.”
This profound recognition has informed and empowered Andrew’s iconic, fine art photography to this day. We are all so very different, and yet, we are all the same. To hold these two insights together at one time is the beginning of true seeing.
On his return from the Peace Corps, he moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1971, opening a studio. It was there in Arkansas, shuttling between Little Rock and Fayetteville, that he settled down to do his life work as an artist and portrait photographer. From 1973 to 1977 he taught photography in the art department at the University of Arkansas. In 1981 he moved to Little Rock where he produced a wide range of exhibit length projects. In 1990 he moved back to Fayetteville to make it his home.
In 1986, as part of Arkansas’ sesquicentennial celebration, Andrew spent the year taking photographs of all the different people who live and work throughout Arkansas. The project culminated in book form as Arkansas People, published in 1987.
From the very beginning, Andrew has created exhibits involving special groups of people, those who share the strange quality in our culture of being “unseen” by the general public. Working with various non-profits and advocacy organizations, Andrew has photographed developmentally disabled children and adults, people suffering from mental illness, at-risk adolescents, Fayetteville’s poorest citizens and many very small children. He seeks to discover for himself, for his audience and for his fine art print collectors the most challenging and diverse of subjects.
Many of Andrew's subjects are misunderstood, and most live on the fringes of American survival. These are people stripped by birth or by circumstance of the inclination or even the capacity for pretense, and so offer themselves to Andrew’s camera with an openness and vulnerability that is both revealing and affecting.
The people in these groups -- people who seem so different and are therefore so often marginalized -- give us a chance to take a deep, long look at who we all really are, and to experience what Andrew experienced in India while waiting for the bus one day with that tiny old Indian man. We are, in fact, all one.