The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 14, 2007


Photographer Joan Rolfe displays a strong image from one her visits to New York City. (Photo by Anne Marie Brako)

Carlisle photographer focuses on form and lines

"My eyes become a camera," says photographer Joan Rolfe of Nowell Farme Road. "Even without my equipment, I am constantly seeing framed prints in my mind's eye." Her work entitled "Photographics Where Reality Becomes Art" is currently on display at the Gleason Public Library until January 5.

Rolfe calls the 23 photographs in the exhibit a retrospective of her life's work. Although the number of photographs are miniscule in comparison with the vast quantity Rolfe has taken in her 40 years as an art photographer, her style is evident in the works she selected to display. The selections are realistic still-life images of easily recognizable things such as flowers, insects, or empty row boats. People have no place in this view. Rolfe chooses to feature the shapes made by mushroom caps or the angles created by strewn rope on a dock.

All the pictures at the exhibit are for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the library.

Hiking local trails for content

A town resident for 31 years, Rolfe credits her love of her Deck house with keeping her in town. She enjoys taking trail walks and always brings her camera along, and although she loves to travel, she estimates that she takes 75% of her pictures locally.

"I like Great Meadows in Concord," she says and the image "Winter Light" comes from one of her walks there. She also takes photos in her neighborhood, and has captured an image of mirrors standing near trees on a former neighbor's property. The picture, entitled "Mirror Gallery in the Forest" is part of the show.

"Plants, animals and birds are my favorite subjects," she says. "Birds are very difficult. I still haven't got a shot of birds that I like!" Nonetheless, birds — rather than humans — are the living beings in a photograph called "Maine Skiff with Visitors."

The exhibit contains images from her many trips to Maine, Cape Cod and Canada, as well as journeys to Iceland and France. True to her interest in form and structure, Rolfe enjoys photographing architecture. She shares her memory of the World Trade Center in New York, looking up at one of the twin towers from the base of one of the buildings.

Finding inspiration in New England

Born in New Bedford, Rolfe grew up on the southeastern coast of Massachusetts. She started with a box camera, taking black-and-white photographs. Although she majored in communications in college, she did take some art and design classes that helped develop her work as a hobbyist photographer.

Rolfe started in broadcasting as a career and ended up working in a wide variety of other jobs — in a factory, in advertising and publishing. In the 1980s she turned to designing color covers for five medical journals with 75 credited works. Her pieces use nature themes to illustrate medical topics; one of them won a New Hampshire Chamber of Commerce award. In the 1990s Rolfe restored and painted country tinware for sale at eight gift shops in New England. Recently she returned to broadcasting and currently works part-time as a volunteer directing shows at BACT, a cable-access station in Burlington.

From black and white to color

For most of her adult life, Rolfe has had a 35-mm camera on hand. She joined a number of photography clubs over the years, and won some prizes. Nonetheless, photography has always represented an interest rather than a career. She recently acquired a digital camera, and she took about a third of the pieces on display using this medium. She shoots only in color now, but her background in black-and-white photography is evident as spatial elements and the juxtaposition of black lines on a solid color are key elements of her color pictures.

"I no longer have my favorite picture of all time because I sold it," she says. "It's a wine glass, half full on a deck on an island in Maine with a foggy background. It's called 'The Morning After in Maine.'"

Even without her "favorite picture of all time" at the Gleason, visitors will appreciate Rolfe's style and personal view of the world after viewing her photographs.

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito