ArtProfiler’s Artist Monthly series highlights one artist per month for exceptional work in his or her chosen medium. This month, we chose photographic collage artist, Thomas Athey.
Austin-based photographer Thomas Athey has incorporated art into his daily routine for several decades. Starting with a ceramics apprenticeship in high school, Tom has worked in a variety of other media including jewelry, sculpture, printmaking and painting. Since earning a studio art degree from the University of Texas in 1991, Tom has concentrated primarily on documentary and fine art photography and his work is included in a number of public and private collections.
Several years ago, an urge to revisit the tens of thousands of images in his photographic archive inspired Tom to develop a unique process for intelligently and intuitively combining hundreds of previously unrelated images. The resulting collage work, precise yet painterly, loose yet intricately structured, challenges viewers to rethink traditional photography and its relationship to other mediums.
Tom lives in South Austin with his wife Carol, has two grown sons and travels by bicycle whenever possible.
For the last several years, I’ve set aside single image photography and focused exclusively on photographic collage. At the root of this is my interest in memetics, the idea that non-biological entities like ideas, behaviors, language or images can evolve using the same principles as biological evolution: inheritance, mutation and selection.
My goal is to build a creative workflow that operates according to these principles, a survival-of-the-fittest process that, through constant review and competition, allows certain images to advance to higher levels of exposure/success and others to get relegated and essentially become extinct. This has been years in the making but I’m at the point now where I see myself as kind of a mad scientist, tinkering with JPEGs instead of DNA, assembling targeted sets of original image content and running controlled experiments to synthesize new organisms (collages) from those sets. This is a software-assisted process that uses pattern matching algorithms to construct unique composite images using the templates, image sets and parameters that I provide. In theory, after numerous batch iterations and ranking and rating cycles, this process will ultimately raise the quality of my finished artifacts by elevating image content that best supports my artistic vision.