Thomas Athey

Constructio Conclavia (4694_3)
32″x54″; archival inkjet print on canvas; 2018

Thomas Athey
Austin, Texas, USA


The unrelenting tsunami of digital photography has triggered sweeping changes in the medium. The proliferation of powerful and inexpensive digital cameras and the ubiquity of camera-enabled cell phones provide the click-happy masses with an unprecedented capability to generate visual content on a massive scale.

In my opinion, a paradigm shift is in progress concerning how people relate to the images that they so effortlessly create, driving prolific shooters like myself to explore options for relating to images en masse, defining them by their identity as part of a group rather than individually. My approach for managing this maelstrom of multiplicity is to deemphasize the individual image, mine it for compelling content and then incorporate the resulting derivative into a photographic flash-mob, a painterly assemblage, snapshots aspiring to become brushstrokes.

As a process enthusiast I’m excited by the evolutionary potential of this work, the opportunity to incorporate the tenets of Universal Darwinism–variation, selection and heredity–into the artistic process. Embracing the principles of memetics–the cultural analogue to genetics–I create complex image inheritance scenarios (copies of images), apply targeted mutations to highlight desirable attributes (image edits) and enforce rigorous selection pressures (ranking and rating) in a survival-of-the-fittest workflow that ultimately determines which images get included in the finished artifact. In this context, my collage images can be viewed as unique organisms, subject to the same evolutionary forces as biological entities but driven by the decisive sensibilities of the artist rather than the random vagaries of natural selection.


Austin-based photographer Thomas Athey has successfully incorporated art into his daily life for several decades. Beginning with a ceramics apprenticeship in high school, Tom has worked in a variety of 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.

Recently, 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.


[click to email]


Exemplum Anguli (052C1003LL_2)
20″x20″; archival inkjet print on paper; 2018
Lux Incisura (5606_2)
20″x20″; archival inkjet print on paper; 2018
Oceanus Quadratum (ARD_421)
36″x24″; archival inkjet print on canvas; 2018
Viginti Parallelos (PON15_12)
38″x36″; archival inkjet print on canvas; 2018