Photography is one thing; taking images to another level requires ingenuity and originality. Technique plays a part, but only when applied by an expert hand and a discerning eye. Elaine Querry is that kind of photographer. She has been working in this art form for more than 35 years and has won numerous awards. Elaine’s work has been shown in locations around the world and is in many public and private collections. As a fine art photographer she captures images that speak to her as an artist and challenge her creatively. Her work is on exhibit through September at 2 Ten A Galaria of Art and Treasures, 210 Plaza, Las Vegas, N.M., along with the work of sculptor Duke Sundt and artist David Carter. The Galaria is open from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Saturday. Elaine and her husband Ron Querry live in historic Las Vegas, N.M. in a century old Victorian home.
ORP: There was a great turn out for the opening of Out West at 2 Ten A Galleria of Art and Treasures. Talk briefly about the show and the participants.
Elaine: Linda and Bill Anderle have brought together a group of people working in a variety of media to illustrate the theme Out West. Duke Sundt is showing a selection of his incredible bronzes; I have a collection of color photographs from in and around Las Vegas; Texas photographer David Carter has images of rodeos that he’s worked on in and out of Photoshop. Also showing are artists – Stuart Gelzer (photographs) and Alice Winston Carney (watercolors).
ORP: Everyone with a cell phone believes they’re the next Ansel Adams. What makes a fine art photographer different from the casual picture taker.
Elaine: A cell phone, a digital or film camera are all just tools. What makes a fine art photographer is someone who attempts to take the viewer there. To present the image in such a way as to provoke a visual dialogue with the audience. When I photograph I’m looking to tell a story. To stop a moment in time and place and to record it as I found it. Photography is a wonderful way of remembering and expressing the world around us. Fine art photography goes deeper. It’s as much about the photographer as it is about what she is recording. Photography becomes not only a tool but an extension of who we are, framed by our experiences and our visions, our hearts and our souls. As a fine art photographer, I think in terms of series whether all at one shooting or later bringing together images that build on each other and work together. The series I am showing now at 2 Ten are images I shot for my enjoyment and interest over a period of five years with no expectation of a resulting show. I’m driven to photograph. When I can put together a series, it’s very satisfying.
ORP: What drew you to photography as an art form?
Elaine: Early on with photography I found a way of expression that didn’t need words. One where I could communicate and express myself visually. I am an artist and photography is my art form.
ORP: I’m a fan of photojournalism because I do believe a picture speaks a thousand words. What “story” do you look for when you take photographs?
Elaine: I began my career as a photojournalist and I was also chief photographer for three newspapers. I shot, printed and developed my editorial and advertising work as well as that of others at the papers. I learned from some very good editors that you must tell a story with your photographs. You need to shoot from different angles and levels to find that right image and to bracket your exposures… you need to stretch yourself, to take chances. It’s important for me not put myself in the image – I want to show you what’s there so you can see it and form your own ideas, your own insights. And I compose the image in the viewfinder – shooting full frame. Rarely do I crop an image. Dorthea Lange said, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera…”
ORP: Your www.elainequerry.com website is called Shadowcatcher. What does that mean to you and how does the term reflect your work?
Elaine: Shadowcatcher is another term for a photographer. Someone who catches shadows. I first heard that term as it was used to describe Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868–1952), the early and great photographer and ethnologist whose work focused on the American West and its Native peoples. His subjects called him Shadowcatcher because he photographed them and made a print which “caught shadows”. I use that name instead of, and along with, photographer. It’s a beautiful and accurate way to describe what I do.
ORP: What is the most difficult aspect of what you do and why is it difficult?
Elaine: It’s all difficult. As it should be. There’s that old thing about people thinking – and actually saying – that if they’d been there with a good camera they could have taken that picture. That’s like saying if they’d had a good pan, they could have made that gourmet meal. I love what I do, but the most difficult aspect for me is to focus on one thing. And I want to do that one thing to the best of my ability. Every project seems to take so much time!
ORP: Is being a fine art photographer more manageable with all the technology available?
Elaine: It has made things much different. The works of so many of the masters of photography were here long before our current technology was created and those works are still exquisite. Digital technology has given us additional tools and that has opened up other worlds, other ways of expressing our vision. For example I work a great deal with old photographs that I’ve tried to restore using traditional photography with varying levels of success. But once introduced to digital technology, I’ve had much more success in getting those images close to the originals.
ORP: Do you still use film or do you rely on digital?
Elaine: I rely on digital but have not given up my film cameras or wet darkroom. I rely a great deal on the images I have taken on film over the years before I went digital and I rely a great deal on my digital images. I’d like to incorporate the two more. And I like to do alternative process photography as well, and photograms, which one makes without using a camera at all. I have licensed a number of my alternative process images for use as book jacket covers in this country and in Europe.
ORP: What do you most want people to know about you as an artist and photographer?
Elaine: I want to show you what I see – to show you what is there. To show you something you may not see or be aware of on your own. To open your eyes to something new. To make you look.
ORP: Please add anything that is important to you that I left out.
Elaine: For the past three years I’ve been scanning old Cowboy Reunion and other panoramas as well as various other vintage photographs and restoring the scans and then printing the resulting image. It takes a lot of time in front of a computer using Photoshop, but I find it’s been very rewarding. It’s a quiet sort of communion with the people and the time (1915-1940s) in the photographs. For me it’s almost like a meditation of an era gone by. In the panoramas the face might be just a quarter of an inch high but on the computer I can blow it up three or four hundred times to repair the file. Lots of information and lots of things to see and think about! I have a dozen of the early Las Vegas Cowboy’s Reunion Panoramas on display and for sale at the Plaza Hotel.
Photos: Linda Anderle