A Romantic Nature
THE CANVAS – September 2014
By Jamie Thompson
Photographers Donna Kabay, Corey Desrochers, and Barbara Goodbody are not confined by the conventions of their medium. By adding digital effects or playing with brightness, color, and exposure, these artists create dramatic images. Their views of nature are a nod to the traditions of romanticism, which honor the sublime power of the natural world and its awe-inspiring beauty.
Donna Kabay grew up in Pennsylvania. She earned a master’s degree in landscape architecture. While working in landscape design, Kabay developed an interest in photography, creating images of all the landscapes that surrounded her, from urban to natural. For a while she held private shows and sold her work on her website, and in 2012 made the full-time transition to photography. Kabay opened Phosart Photography in Kennebunk. Last year, her work was featured in Focus Folio magazine and in exhibitions at River Tree Arts and the Gallery at the Grand in Kennebunk. She is currently participating in an exhibition at the Gallery at 11 Pleasant in Brunswick.
Kabay’s love of photography stems from its endless possibilities as a mode of expression. “It is so often assumed a photograph is a replica of a reality, but truly it is the photographer’s opinion and interpretation of an event or scene,” she says. “The photographer can take liberties with reality as easily as the painter.” From the initial idea to the final image, Kabay’s creative process is propelled by her desire to “develop a work that is purely personal.” Her process is twofold: the thought process during which she decides what to photograph, and the hands-on process of making the image. Choosing which photograph to use is wholly “intuitive,” Kabay explains. She either knows immediately what she wants to capture with an image, or she will need to scroll through hundreds of photographs until something “jumps out at me.” She uses various tools within Photoshop to adjust texture and color saturation. Kabay prints her photographs on cotton rag paper, and will sometimes paint on the print with acrylic or watercolor. After that, she will scan or rephotograph in order to have a digital file of the finished image.
“I have always been drawn to the landscape,” Kabay says. “I began photographing many kinds of landscapes and it gradually became a passion.” She notes that the roadsides of coastal New England are especially inspirational for her. Outlook depicts just such a locale, in Kennebunkport. “As I drove by, I was immediately impressed by the form of this tree and its relationship to the rocks and sea behind,” says Kabay. The piece is part of a series she calls Landscape Poetics: “The form, aspect, color, and texture of the image are a kind of visual poetry where words are not needed.” The photograph has a weathered appearance as if it, like the tree it depicts, has been exposed to the salty sea winds. To create this quality, Kabay applied various effects in Photoshop, and then finished the image with a watercolor wash. Outlook feels like it could be an image from memory, an impression of a fondly remembered moment. It is Kabay’s goal to express her point of view through images that have a profound resonance beyond mere representation. “I want to inspire the viewer to have a new experience through my images, even if the image is of something they pass or see every day,” she says.
Barbara Goodbody moved to Maine in 1973 after working on Senator Edmund S. Muskie’s presidential campaign. In 1986 she realized her passion for photography and attended the Maine Photographic Workshop (now Maine Media Workshops) in Rockland. Goodbody has exhibited at venues such as Addison Woolley Gallery in Portland, VoxPhotographs in Portland, College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, the Art Gallery at the University of New England in Portland, Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, and at UNESCO in Paris, France for the International Women’s Day celebration. Her work is in the Ernst Haas Memorial Collection at Portland Museum of Art. She is a member of the advisory board at Maine Museum of Photographic Arts. Goodbody is represented by VoxPhotographs and lives in Cumberland Foreside.
“I have always been interested in photography, but it wasn’t until I tuned 50 that I committed myself to it,” Goodbody says. She attended the Maine Photographic Workshop as a “birthday present to myself.” She found her passion there, and appreciated the guidance and support of the instructors. At one of the workshops, in 1987, she met a fellow photographer who invited her and a small group of others to travel to India’s villages and sacred sites. “I’ve always been interested in comparative religions, particularly those faiths that are earth-based, and the environmental-spiritual connection,” she says. “My travels to India awakened my curiosity to those other faiths.” Relating her images to “spiritual consciousness” is a large part of Goodbody’s art. The images she created on that trip became her first professional exhibition, Images of India: Villages and Sacred Sites, which traveled across the United States from 1996 to 2000. Since then, Goodbody’s art has been exhibited, published, and collected internationally. “I never dreamed my photographs would hang on someone’s wall. I just did it for myself,” she says. “It’s never too late to start!”
Sunrise VIII is part of a series of eight photographs of the sunrise over Penobscot Bay in Camden. The collection, Salutation to the Dawn, was made into a small-limited edition accordion book, designed by Stephen Stinehour of Stinehour Editions. The piercing orange sunlight seems to pour from the sky, bathing the earth in shimmering gold. She captured the image with a 35 mm digital camera and her own creativity—the image was not manipulated during printing. The contrasts in tone are dramatic, lending an epic quality to the image that suits Goodbody’s inspiration. She visited Newgrange, the prehistoric monument in Ireland that is illuminated by the sun on the winter solstice. “I was stunned by it,” she says. Goodbody was fascinated by the “ray of sun penetrating the earth, the earth and sun coming together, and the complete blending of them.” In her photograph, the sunrise, an event that happens every day, is given a mythical significance that commands the viewer’s attention. Goodbody explains that she aims to “put an edge” on her images: “it’s not just the sunrise, there’s something else going on here.”
Corey Desrochers grew up in Alfred. He graduated from Hallmark Institute of Photography in 2007. Since then, he has worked as a commercial and editorial photographer in addition to creating fine art images. He participated in the 2008 Lone Tree, Colorado photographic exhibition, in the 2013 show Can you Hear Me Now? at Ogunquit’s StoneCrop Gallery, and this year in Reflect: Convicts’ Letters to Their Younger Selves at Engine in Biddeford. Desrochers has a piece in the permanent collection of the Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography. He is represented by VoxPhotographs in Portland.
Desrochers finds inspiration in “the world around me and how light shapes it. For example, I get excited about how the world looks at dusk when you notice that the streetlights are quickly becoming the dominant light source. To me, that is a transition full of energy.” His creative process starts with an idea of an image he wants to make. “Usually I write everything about that idea down as fast as I can, like the backstory and the feeling it should have,” Desrochers explains. He also formulates ideas about lighting and location. “It’s like a script that I purposely forget to bring to the shoot,” he says. “So, when shooting I’m free to enjoy the happy accidents.” Desrochers’ movie metaphor is apt: his dramatic, beautifully composed photographs often seem like stills from a motion picture. His images tell compelling stories without affectation. Once he’s taken a photograph, Desrochers “plays” with the image on the computer, in a free-form first draft, by adjusting color and contrast until he achieves a look that appeals to him. Afterwards, he’ll start over “with the goal of achieving similar results while paying close attention to the image’s quality.”
Autumn Abstraction pulsates with movement and color. The typical foliage-laden landscape is turned on its head by Desrochers, who injects it with a slightly psychedelic quality. At the time he created the piece, Desrochers had been carrying a simple point-and-shoot camera with him. “I was bored and not impressed by the quality of the images I was making with it so I started to use long shutter speeds while moving the camera around,” he explains. Desrochers was pleased with the results, so he replicated that in a more fleshed out-image using his “big camera” and tripod. Autumn Abstraction conveys not only the beauty of the season, but also its evanescence. “I like how this images has an ethereal feel while still being very much grounded in reality at its base,” Desrochers says.