A longtime local photographer who is known nationally for his portrait work has unearthed a lost selection of candid street photography from the 1970s around Fayetteville.
Photographer Andrew Kilgore shared a handful of his favorite images from the rediscovered set with the Flyer recently, and they are embedded above and below.
Kilgore, who celebrated his 83rd birthday earlier this month, has been documenting the people of Arkansas for most of his adult life.
Born in Virginia, he moved to Fayetteville in 1971 after serving in the Peace Corps in India. He purchased his first camera in Hong Kong while on holiday during the trip, he said, and began developing his signature style shortly after that.
He began photographing students while he worked at a school for the developmentally disabled in Austin, Texas, and after that, was headed to San Francisco before a stop-off in Fayetteville to visit friends turned into a much longer stay than he anticipated.
He set up a studio in Fayetteville during the 1970s, and also worked as a professor of photography at the University of Arkansas, and as a freelancer for The Grapevine, a small weekly newspaper.
After being let go from his job at the UA, he said, due to his lack of formal education in photography, Kilgore began making portraits as a way to support his family. He started an art project called Fayetteville Townfolk Portfolio Project where he began photographing the people of his new hometown in his arresting, signature style of portraiture.
Kilgore has always been interested in all different types of people, and the idea behind the Fayetteville Townfolk project was to capture a cross section of the entire community at that time.
“I photographed people from the most affluent people in the community to the poorest,” he said.
Typically shot in black-and-white, with a neutral backdrop usually provided by a simple piece of cloth, Kilgore’s portraits are instantly recognizable. The plain background combined with Andrew’s good nature that puts his subjects at east allow the portraits a unique kind of life that is difficult to quantify.
Eye contact with the camera is another characteristic of his portraits that – for lack of a better explanation – drip with the humanity and and sparkle with the personality of the subjects.
In addition to his Fayetteville Townsfolk project, Kilgore is known for his collection of photographs of people with developmental disabilities titled We Drew A Circle, a collection commissioned by the Youth at Risk project in Little Rock which was funded by the Annie Casey Foundation, an exhibit created as part of the state of Arkansas’s sesquicentennial celebration called Arkansas People, and others.
The rediscovered images shared with the Flyer this week were mostly taken during Kilgore’s time with The Grapevine. The images were unearthed at the request of a client, he said, and he realized there are likely others who might be interested in them.
Some familiar locations are featured in the photos, including Collier Drug and United Methodist Church on Dickson Street in the background of one shot. A look at the rail yard near the corner of Dickson Street and West Avenue is visible in another, and there are also shots of the iconic D-Lux, Restaurant on the Corner and Minute Man Hamburgers restaurants in the set of photos. The UARK Bowl, Dickson Street Liquor, Ozark Theatre, and the old Washington County Courthouse are also represented.
Old Main on the UA campus also looms in some of the images, and the restoration of the south tower is clearly ongoing as they were captured.
Kilgore, who said he has a file cabinet full of negatives featuring thousands more photos from the same period, said he is interested in finding an underwriter to sponsor a project to sort through and archive the historic images.
Even at 83, Kilgore has continued to work, still taking portraits on a commission basis at his home studio in South Fayetteville. Those who are interested can contact him to arrange for a sitting via his website.
Recently, he has also made available some of his favorite photographs from his career to purchase as prints via the site.
The new photos Kilgore shared with the Flyer this week seem at first to be a departure from the work he is best known for, but the magic of his work – especially when there are people involved in the subject matter – remains.
Kilgore told us the secret to capturing the essence of a person in his portraits boils down to having an eye for composition, abstract shapes, and design, but more so, comes from of his love of his subject matter.
“I love these people,” he said. “I really do love people. I fall in love with everyone I photograph. I fall in love with people at the next table at a restaurant. I just can’t take my eyes off of people.”