I have shared a few of my father’s photographs in the past, but I wanted to give a broader picture of the art I grew up with. It is through this blog that many people (my father’s friends, colleagues, and fellow artists) have found me through searching for his work. It only makes sense that I make more of his work available for viewing online. As his work means the world to me, and there can never be any more artwork produced by this wonderful, talented man, I ask that if you share the photos, please be respectful and credit him in any repost.
The “Children at Play” series was taken over the course of two years in the late 1980’s, as Teemer wandered through some of the poorest neighborhoods in Dayton, Cincinnati,, Newburgh, and his hometown, Baltimore. His goal: “I wanted to produce a body of work that reveals human values and relationships, largely through the innocence of children, in working-class urban neighborhoods where people appear to live on the edge and who seem to have little control over their destiny.” He went on to say, “While both disturbing and beautiful, I find this work reveals a duality between a chaotic and sometimes impoverished environment with that of a celebration, innocence, and love for life.”
Of his 34-image collection of this work of inner city children, Teemer went on:
“Kids are easy to make pictures of because they’ll carry on for you. But to get past that is a different story. It’s difficult to get something that will penetrate to other issues. I’m interested in the children’s innocence, how they haven’t been biased by life, haven’t been limited yet by rules and prejudices, and in how they perceive others.”
Some have interpreted Teemer’s work as primarily political.
“It’s not my position to make judgements… I’m just trying to raise questions. I think I can inform, that’s all. I don’t believe political art really does that much, but I think that it’s important that it tries to.” — Teemer
“Some of it is right-in-your-face kind of stuff… the environment is on the edge all the time — on the edge of abuse, on the edge of falling through the cracks.” — Teemer
“It’s like a snapshot that records a moment, much like a family picture. It appears at first to be ordinary and without skill, but is actually highly formal and subject revealing.” — Teemer
“These are photos ripe with embracing, with high-voltage movement, with eyes immensely alive despite the city-dirt caking face and body below. There is little question the environment is ‘disturbing’ to a society increasingly sanitized. But, the ultimate verdict is not that these are children with ‘little control over their own destiny;’ rather — as shown in the eyes of the child on the verge of acquiring ‘street smarts’ — most of these children manifest such energy that it seems impossible for any environment to significantly ‘beat them down.’ ” — Richard F. Schwarze, Times Arts Critic
“When you first look at the photograph, you’re seduced by the color itself and you start to play on your own experiences… Then you start to notice the dirt and the bare feet and the broken glass and the peeling paint and the pit bull and all of the stuff that reveals what the environment really is. My work needs that duality, that push-pull of being provocative and yet lovely at the same time. I’m juggling two things at the same time, which is hard to do when you’re chasing certain moments.” –Teemer
Other bodies of work Teemer produced: Portraits of Homelessness and Personal Spaces, are tied together by a passion for documenting the real and the personal in the everyday, seeking to empower and inform.
Through the work of perusing old, folded newspaper articles from the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was so touched to read in depth about my father and his work. What I wouldn’t give to have a grown-up discussion with him about his work and life right now, this very moment! As he passed away when I was twelve years old, there was no way for me to grasp the importance and impact he was having in the art world; now I grieve not only the loss of my father, but the loss of a great artist and inspiration, and all of the amazing work he had yet to accomplish. It is in this way that I experience a new sadness in growing older without him.