A Witness to the Street

All photographs from "Fair Witness" by David Lykes Keenan
All photographs from “Fair Witness” by David Lykes Keenan

David Lykes Keenan left his life in software to work as a street photographer in New York City and Austin, Texas, successfully exhibited his work and publishing multiple photography books since 2003. He freely admits to sliding into the existing life of the city, discreetly carrying a Leica M camera with which to capture people unaware. In his own words, “For reasons both within and beyond my control, I have lived more as a witness than a participant in my life: a voyeur”. His latest project, Fair Witness is a collection of 70 black and white photos taken from 2004-2011 in New York and Austin. Looking at these pictures one is transported to the city street and directly into the lives of strangers amid the concrete and the crowds. Keenan isn’t creating the scenes around him, but his clear eye is definitely capturing the fleeting moments in the sometimes humorous, shocking, or emotional occurrences of those whose path he crosses. For example, in Lion Tamers, New York City, 2008 he is witness to a common scene of men moving things. Except that one thing they are moving is a giant plaster lion whose mouth gapes open ferociously. This draws the attention of the other startled mover as well as the lifelike disapproving stare of a nearby statue. Keenan has promoted the movers to lion tamers fully in control of a wild animal and able to keep chaos from ensuing.


Keenan reaches out to people when he steals their image in a way that he says is his “connection to humanity”. It is this warmth that he brings to each situation that occurs while he wanders the streets, inconspicuously working his way into the city’s turmoil. Keenan’s photos tell stories, ask questions, and create surprise or mystery. One wonders if, after years as a computer engineer and working mostly with machines, being behind the camera extends the artist a much more preferred interaction with people.


Currently Keenan is taking pledges for financial support for publishing at the link provided below. Fair Witness is due to be published in Spring 2015 if Keenan meets his goal.

Kathleen Stewart