Studio Visit with Zach and Caitlin Keenan
Zachary Keenan and Caitlin Longley Keenan make up a dynamic art duo. On the one hand, Zach has a variety of projects from hand drawn typography to landscape kits, teaches, and runs DesignWorks at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. On the other, former MCAD staff photographer Caitlin keeps busy with her photography work and freelancing.
Photos and interview by Kelsey Johnston
Secrets of the City:Where are you guys from?
Caitlin Keenan: St. Paul
Zach Keenan: I grew up in Detroit, Michigan
Secrets: Zach, tell me about how you entered into typography.
ZK: I grew up in a family of designers so I was always around type. I went to school for design but I actually didn’t get my head around type until I started taking illustration classes. I started to look at type differently. I think our generation’s relationship to type is through the computer—instantly available. When I got away from the software, I liked how tactile typography became and the labor of it. Especially when the tool I use effects the kind of personality the type has.
Secrets: Caitlin, what’s your favorite part about the process of photography?
CK: I think because it’s so instant, when working with film there’s still that surprise when you get the film back. With film you can describe things and that’s the more thrilling part. Then there’s the whole process afterwords of editing, you can really start to put things together.
Secrets: Do you guys work together? What’s that process like?
ZK: Sure, I think when we started dating each other we were attracted to each other creatively as well as well as everything else. We sort of made reasons to work together on something. I think our two disciplines really compliment each other, the designer/photographer relationship is something pretty familiar to a lot of folks but it works really well. I think the thing I really like about working with Caitlin is that I tend to see things from a certain point of view and I can’t help it. Caitlin sees the same thing completely different. But the wonderful thing is that even with different points of view, we’re usually thinking the same thing. Does that make sense? I also love when Caitlin talked about her editing process. She will shoot a couple of rolls of film and that process forms a way of telling a story—she’ll do that through my work too. I think it’s really rewarding. CK: We have a deeper personal connection rather than just a partner in a studio would. We can really look at each others work from a different perspective which is neat.
ZK: We are probably more honest with each other than if we were just business partners. You can be honest with your best friend.
Secrets: Caitlin can you describe your style of photography?
CK: I think it’s exploratory. I don’t generally figure out a project with specific guidelines. I go out and shoot and bring it home and figure it out—find the direction. A lot of color and shapes, it’s actually kind of graphic.
Secrets: Zach, tell me more about DesignWorks.
CK: DesignWorks is a design studio practice housed inside the MCAD campus. Essentially, it exists to give MCAD students professional experiences. I help them take the creative process they’re developing and pair that with client-based projects. I’ve been the director for almost three years, it’s rewarding to have one foot in academics and one foot in a design practice. And it’s pretty inspiring to be around really talented young folks all day.
Secrets: What tool can you not live without?
CK: books, novels?
Secrets: Favorite part of living in Minneapolis?
ZK: In NYC, on any given night there’s so much going on, but my friends say they tend to stay in their own neighborhoods. What’s so great about this town is that people are still neighborhood-centric but, there’s a lot more cross pollination. To go to NE from our place, which is deep South Minneapolis, in the summer is a wonderful bike ride and we don’t even blink an eye at the trip. So I guess it’s the size of Minneapolis.
CK: There’s so many exciting things going on. I really like going out to eat. I think there’s a lot of exciting things happening in terms of restaurants. Going to get a beer and a burger is great. I think the mentality of people here is very neighborly as well.
Secrets: What’s your favorite establishment in Minneapolis?
ZK: The Ax-man and the Walker.
CK: I really like the Central library. I think it’s really beautiful. I was really skeptical because I loved the old one and I think that’s an amazing place that we have.
ZK: Maybe the Mississippi river bank, is that an establishment?. It feels sort of like a temple.
CK: When I was growing up in St. Paul there was this one rock that everyone sat on to drink, smoke pot , make-out or whatever by the river.
Secrets: What is the highlight of being newlyweds?
CK: I feel like there’s the big build-up to getting married from being little and not just the wedding but, that stage in your life and now we’re past that point and it feels good to relax a bit.
ZK: Very early on in the relationship, I felt like it was bigger than girlfriend/boyfriend. Whenever I would say “ my girlfriend” I would think “that doesn’t really sum it up.” When we got married it was this huge rush of being able to say “I’m her husband!”