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Photography and Me

When my daughter was studying in Italy a number of years ago, I went to visit her. In preparation I bought a small used Konika with a Zeiss lens (on sale!) for the trip. I didn’t know anything about cameras or much about photography—except for experimenting with our Beta consumer video camera for a number of years to document family events. I returned from the trip, and brought my film into the lab where I had bought the camera. The owner, the retired White House photographer for Lyndon B. Johnson, said to me, “You have a good eye.”

 

That’s all it took. (And it helped that he was my first customer to buy a print!) I became wedded to my camera, today a Sony A6000 mirrorless digital with some Canons in between then and now. I started with landscapes, architecture and then abstracts I call “Light Impressions” in which I move the camera or shoot at a slow speed to show movement, or both. Driving home from work at night and putting the camera on the dashboard to experiment (some would say recklessly) left me with a number of “drive-by shootings.” After a trip to Russia and interacting personally with its expressive people, I broadened my interests to include people, children, street life. A two-week photo workshop in Italy with Joel Meyerowitz (who called my photos “quirky”) left me not only with new friends, but an even more intense interest in photography. So, I keep traveling, learning and experimenting.

 

Because I was working full time and raising a family and then starting a new memoir-writing  and publishing business during those years, I took several workshops as opposed to enrolling in a degree program. And I also began to enter online and local competitions, gaining some recognition. All the while I would think of ways to “beat the camera”—my effort to thwart the generally defined role of a camera as a vehicle designed to capture a photographic image of single moment in time. Recently, I was challenged in a workshop led by Meg Birnbaum at the Griffin Museum of Photography to think about another way to achieve my goal besides a long exposure. I layered photos, simulating the Cubist art of Picasso and Braque. Seeing multiple perspectives simultaneously of the same person enabled me to once again trick the medium.

 

A favorite art memory: In 2000 I was invited to participate in the Millennium Fusion Project group show in Chicago. Anything goes, I was told by the artist who invited me—who had seen only one 4” x 6” photo of mine, an abstract with lights and cobwebs. What should I submit? Do the same thing, he advised. What life experience relating to light makes one feel that he or she is growing cobwebs, I asked myself? “Waiting for the green light!” It feels as if the red will never change. So I borrowed a real traffic light (from an official who shall go unnamed) and had two high school boys drive it from my home in Green Bay to the Chicago gallery in an open truck, worrying they’d be arrested. But first I had the accommodating official fix the lights to eliminate green. Then I interviewed a programmer in the transportation business who described how they decide to time lights at crossroads. I attached the interview tape to the post of the traffic light, and guests at the opening could stop and listen. The red-and-yellow light was placed at the entrance to the gallery and my career as an artist began!