Bob Tankersley

Location: Versailles, Kentucky 

Instagram: @bobtank

How did your interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?

Growing up, photography was a big deal in my family. I was surrounded by parents, along with several aunts and uncles, all with cameras in their hands. You didn't take a trip or attend a family gathering without one. After years of 110 point and shoots, my Dad gave me a Canon AT-1 when I was 11 or 12 and taught me to shoot totally in Manual mode. I loved it.

It seems like I've always looked at the world a little differently through the lens. If you go back and look at some of my photographs from those preteen years, you see much of the same style: abstract details, the evidences of age-worn buildings, stuff everybody else just passed by. I really thought there must be something wrong with me. I wasn't into beauty in a conventional sense.

How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?

For me, my surroundings mean everything. I, personally, would not be who I am without all the collective environments in which I have lived - and neither would my art. 

How do you choose your subjects?

Most of the time, I really just go where my eyes and camera take me. There are certain locations I shoot whenever I'm in that particular county, or maybe I've given myself an assignment. Mainly it's what catches my eye at any given moment.

Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?

I don't have any formal art training, and really didn't think much of my photography for several years until I discovered Keith Carter, William Christenberry and William Eggleston. All of a sudden this weird way of looking at the everyday world around me didn't seem so bad after all, and I had this creative license to produce work the way I saw it. I also think Susan Lipper and Tamara Reynolds are just incredible. Their view of place sometimes makes me want to just put my camera down and give up.

Where do you go to draw inspiration?

I am a sponge, anywhere and everywhere. I probably seek out inspiration too much. You can get so bogged down in inspiration that you don't do the work yourself.

Are there any aspects of the Southern aesthetic that you embrace or ones you consciously avoid?

I think we in the South have a unique grasp on the themes of age and death. Most of my Dad's family were elderly by the time I was in elementary school, so old age homes and funerals were a big part of my growing up. Family trips were often centered around seeing some uncle or grandparent "for the last time." I was taught early on to find the beauty in the aged, no matter how "disposable" the rest of the world sees it. I think I still see the South as a six year-old looking at the people and landscape out that rear car window. I am driven to make the photographs that child's mind still produces when I close my eyes. 

Do you feel creatively satisfied?

Sometimes there is a moment of satisfaction but it usually it passes pretty quickly. I don't really know how to be satisfied - there is too much in the world that I want to photograph. 

Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.

Right now I have work in the Looking at Appalachia print exhibition and the online project. Right now I am working on a variation of Jenna Miller's Charleston Street Project here in my current hometown of Versailles, and another project I am currently calling Five Minutes From My House, about where I grew up in Nashville.

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