Travis sat (while moving) for this interview; I say "while moving" because he was driving home from an assignment while we chatted (he, on a hands-free phone), multi-tasking, yet somehow giving everything his full attention.
Travis is a very busy working photographer, but he still makes time to work for our photography community, and our community is stronger for it! As the saying goes, if you need something done, ask a busy person! We are lucky that this very busy mensch makes the time for, and dedicates some of his creativity to APA...
APA-NY: When did you first pick up a camera & was it love at first (shutter) click? Travis Keyes: As far back as I can remember I had always had some sort of camera. I don’t know if I fell in love with the camera or the ability to share what I saw. I remember going to visit my grandmother in Texas with the very first camera I remember having; it was one of those 110s where you had to click the film cartridge and it had those little 4 pop square flashes. I remember being so excited to take photos of all the things I saw and then having to drop the film off at a local pharmacy to get developed; I had to wait days to get them back. That excitement of going through the photos; there would usually only be a handful of good photos and the rest I’d throw out. But it was that waiting process and the excitement of getting the film back that I loved. Or that was the part I hated. I wanted the pictures as soon as I shot them! (laughs).
APANY: When did it become your career?
Travis: Photography was my third reboot of careers. I worked in film and television and then opened bars nightclubs and restaurants, and I just wasn’t happy. I walked away from everything and started to pick up a camera just for fun. I discovered I loved it and I wanted it to be my career. I went back to school at ICP and never looked back. It saved my soul, finding photography.
APANY: We have a number of members who’ve had long careers in other fields but are now starting over in photography as their second career, just like you. Do you have any advice for them?
Travis: If you want to do it as a career, make sure that the want is so deep have to do it. That your passion for it is beyond explanation. It must be something you want to wake up to every day and put in the work. Otherwise, if you don’t feel that way, find something that does make you feel that way.
APANY: What brought you to APA, first as a member, then a member of the board, and Chair?
Travis: I’d met Tony Gale, who at that time was the National Chairman of APA. I became friends with him when we were on a trip in Cuba. Several months later, he and I went on a trip to Alaska together. I remember asking him about APA and ASMP and the other groups, and Tony in his typical, always diplomatic way, broke it down, "this organization offers this, and that organization offers that", and I ended up joining both ASMP and APA. When I joined APA I felt an instant bond with the members. They cared about one another and truly wanted to build a community that helped one another. I am still a member of both organizations years later and will say ASMP, which is a fine organization, still has never reached out once to personally talk to me or ask how I was doing as a member. APA is my home and my family.
APANY: What has being a member of APA done for you?
Travis: It’s weird because I went so quickly from becoming a member straight to wanting to help people in the organization. Photography is everything to me and if I could help other like-minded people with the same passion, well, I had to. So, I went straight from joining APA to instantly volunteering for the board and within a year I had become chapter chairman. I have connected with so many members and made lifelong friends. So if you ask what APA has done for me? Well, it gave me that priceless gift.
APANY: What inspires you?
Travis: Oh God, everything from a song, to a painting, or even a good movie. Everywhere you look there is inspiration, we just have to be open and willing to see it. As photographers, if we don’t let ourselves see, we don’t get inspired. It comes from the strangest places. I can hear a song on the radio and it may not move me at all, but then hear the same song sung live in front of thousands of fans and how it affects people in an audience, everyone singing along and sharing that moment, and that power can bring me to tears… and that inspires me.