Mary Farrell River Arts Alliance
I have a few portraits hanging in my house, one by Georgia O’Keefe and the other by Paul Simon. These two portraits appeal to my sense of composition, lighting and style. They have influenced the way I photograph people: a direct look at the camera with simple lighting creates a visually stimulating photographic portrait.
As a photographer, I am aware of the details of my surroundings and especially of people. I’m used to people-watching and am drawn to certain aspects of their personal traits, so when I decided to have an exhibit at the Winona Public Library, I wanted it to be people (and some (some of my cat.) For a year now, I’ve been approaching people I know and others I don’t know very well and I’ve asked them if I could paint their portraits. I asked Sharon to walk around Winona one afternoon with me until we found the vacant lot on Third Street to capture her in front of the brick wall. I asked Nicole to wear her multi-layered pearl necklace for a photoshoot at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. I asked Mike to wear his colorful checkered flannel jacket as he posed in front of an old barn door. I asked Catherine to take a walk on Latsch Island in her vintage coat and hat, capturing her in her favorite spot.
Using exterior natural light or light from an interior window is my preference, but it’s a challenge and sometimes a pleasure to coordinate the right time and the right place between me and the person I was photographing.
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Sometimes that meant waiting in the cold on Lake Winona for the light to shine on Luke and Rebecca’s face at the right angle, or zooming down Hwy 61 to Weaver to catch the warm evening light on Kathie’s face. before sunset, or wade through the Mississippi River with Ed as the evening sun fell under the Interstate Bridge.
Color photography is my passion. While studying photographic arts at Winona State University, I found out that I was going to be a color photographer, unlike most of my peers who were loyal to black and white photography. As Paul Simon sings in his song âKodachromeâ, âit gives us beautiful bright colorsâ.
My camera is my favorite. I like to wear it around my neck, hold it in my hand, press it against my face, focus its lens on the image and hear its click on the shutter button. I believe the camera made its way into my heart when I discovered that it could produce an emotional response to a particular place or person. My photo albums and my computer hard drive store both photos and digital files that remind me of the impact photography has had on my personal history.
I am reassured to know that the photographs are in the bell art room with the statue of Hebe, a sculpture that represents the Greek goddess, as it allows photography to be an art form. As photographer Elliot Erwitt says, âphotography is an art of observation; it has little to do with the things you see and everything in the way you see them.
âThe Portrait Project: Photographs of People and a Catâ is on display at the Winona Public Library until February.
Mary Farrell is a member of the River Arts Alliance. For more information on RAA, visit riverartsalliance.org and on facebook.