The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 8, 2002


Local photographer transforms reality into fine art at Gleason Library

Gay Wind Campbell possesses an uncanny ability to find color. The photographer can zero in on a minuscule rainbow bird overwhelmed in the vastness of an open landscape. She can isolate brilliant shades of color by a weathered park bench. She can capture the fleeting moment when
Gay Wind Campbell's eye for color brings optimism to her works. photo: Anne Marie Brako
twilight turns somber skies to violet in a cropped archway. Her vibrant colors seem unrealistic in her photographic compositions.

"They are all natural," says Campbell of her pictures. The River Road resident does not augment her images digitally, and adds, "People don't believe it's just a plain photograph. They think it must be a painting."

You can view Campbell's fine-art photographic prints at the "Up Close" exhibit at the Gleason Public Library. The show, the fifth of the library's Visual Arts Program, runs from now until April 27. The exhibit includes twenty-eight photographic prints of several sizes, shot in a wide variety of locations including Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and the African continent. Prices are from $80 to $425. Campbell, a professional fine-art photographer for only the last two years, has sold about 35 prints and has exhibited at seven galleries. One of her pictures is in the permanent collection of the U.S. Mission at the United Nations.

Isolating beautiful fragments

With her 35mm camera in hand, Campbell finds herself drawn to photograph the most minuscule elements. Rather than taking a picture of an entire room, she'll concentrate on a corner. She'll pass on a scene of the entire beach, but narrow in on a square foot of sand. Instead of taking an entire building, she'll focus on the rope railing. Aided by her sense of color and attention to lighting, she often renders the actual photographed item unrecognizable.

"You can take the most common thing and turn it into art," says Campbell. On occasion, she uses a tripod, but she always shoots with as slow-speed a film as possible. She explains, "The slower the film, the more you get on the negative."

Campbell spends a lot of time looking at her negatives or slides on a light table. She then takes the select few to Jonathan Singer, her printer in Boston, who uses a high-quality iris process to create a photographic proof. After final cropping, she selects the final proof, and Singer produces a limited edition of 25 prints on English watercolor paper. She then has the pictures floated on a mat and framed for display.

In a typical week, Campbell believes she works about twenty hours on her photography. Unfortunately, that only means about three hours behind the camera. The rest of the time is spent on production concerns and marketing efforts.

To grow as a photographer, Campbell takes an educational workshop a year. She has a close friend in California who also shoots fine-art photography, and they give each other monthly assignments. Over the past six months, the two have amassed interesting results and are working on a book together.
Can you guess the colors of these walls in Gay Wind Campbell's photo from Patagonia? From left to right, the walls are brown ochre, magenta and azure blue.

"My style is becoming even sparser," she says. "I love to isolate line, shape, or color. To me there's always a strong, compelling reason to take a narrower view of something."

Concentrating on home life

Campbell's affinity for photography began at a young age, but it was always a hobby. She grew up in western New York State, with four sisters and one brother. In the seventh grade she received a special Christmas gift from her father a camera. She emerged as the family photographer, but didn't seriously consider photography as more than a pastime.

She earned a degree in sociology at Niagara University where she met her future husband, David. The couple settled in Buffalo, where Campbell was a "corporate wife," staying home to raise her four children. Aided by her husband's position, she developed a rich social and intellectual life, and became involved in volunteer work. Photography provided a creative outlet. She managed to take a correspondence course, set up her own darkroom, and do some portrait work.

Mosquito sparks career moves

After moving to Carlisle five years ago with her husband, Campbell read an item in the Mosquito about Peter Alpers starting up a fine-art gallery at his home on Curve Street. She decided to find out more, and headed over. Campbell demonstrated a promising eye for color and design, and Alpers quickly emerged as a mentor.

"I had always done the photography, but I never had an end result for it," she recalls. After seeing some of her negatives, Alpers introduced her to Singer to produce a photographic print. Her talent as a photographer did the rest, and today she exhibits work at the Alpers Gallery, now situated in Andover.

One of her sales this fall at the gallery was to a young mother who bought two of her African prints, saying "I just want to feel good about the world." The Campbell lens isolated happiness in a remote village of a struggling economic region.

Last spring, Campbell learned about the Gleason Library's Visual Art Program. She called, and after showing her work, secured an exhibit at the library.

Always looking ahead

Campbell loves outdoor life. She plays tennis, skis, jogs, and even goes fly-fishing. Now that her children are grown, she and her husband love travel abroad, to rural locations with environmental interest. These trips provide the primary source of subject matter for her work.

"I shoot about ten to twelve rolls," she says of these trips where she gets new material. Closer to home, she gathered content at Foss Farm and the Estabrook Woods this past winter, as well as in her own back yard, by the Concord River.

"We use the river all the time," she says. "We have a canoe. We have two recycled-plastic kayaks. I fish from the dock where I 'catch and release.' " Campbell recognizes that she lives a privileged life, and for this reason keeps prices for her work as low as she can without losing money in the expensive printing process. She doesn't need to make a profit, and wants her work to be affordable to those who like it. She donates the small amount that she clears to the private Campbell Foundation, which she and her husband set up to donate to medical research and the environment.

Looking toward the future, Campbell says, "We're planning a family skiing trip for the end of March." No doubt she will bring her camera along to capture light on an icicle or a lone ski-track.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito