Humanities Balcony Gallery

Karen Benally Photography

February 19, 2009 - March 27, 2009

Reception: February 19 – 4 to 6 p.m.

The San Juan College Humanities Gallery will exhibit photography by Karen Benally in “Look Closely, Look Again: Seeing Through Nature’s Eye” from February 19 through March 27. The exhibit of color photography will open with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m., Thursday, February 19.

In the exhibit, Benally’s work displays the view, not through her eye or even the lens’ eye, but through nature’s eye. Her passion for light, color, shadow, texture, shape and structure are evident in her photographs. Benally captures the world through her lens, and hopes people will look closely at her photos, and then look again.

Look Closely, Look Again: Seeing through Nature’s Eye

Photographs by Karen Benally

Karen BenallyWhen I was young I lived on a small lake in Michigan. My mother was an avid gardener and our yard was filled with flowers. Somehow I either appropriated or got my mother to share a sunny spot along the fence line in our front yard for a garden of my own. I filled that space with an abundance of a single flower: the perky, happy-faced daisy with its silky white petals and glowing central disk. I loved that flower en masse, and I cherished each individual blossom.

Several years ago, when my husband and I began traveling a great deal, I purchased a 35-mm Canon Rebel camera to record what we were seeing and doing. When I began to get the developed pictures back, I noticed a change occurring both in the kind and quality of photos I was taking. The images were sharper and more carefully framed. In addition, although I was still taking photographs of landscapes and people, I was increasingly taking images that were more intimate, more focused on detail and on the particular. Among the more interesting photos were close-ups of individual flowers and parts of plants. I began to request both print and CD copies of the photos when they were developed and gradually started a photo archive of favorites.

PhotoAbout three years ago I purchased a 35-mm Canon digital camera, and began to “play” with the creation of these intimate images. Because I didn’t have to wait to see my finished photos, I was able to experiment more freely, exploring different ways to look at the same subject. I’ve never owned a micro lens. To compensate, I’ve begun to experiment with such variables as distance to subject and background lighting to capture the kind of focused image I want, largely free of background distraction. The photo archive grew, now encompassing a wider range of images: a golden, three-lobed sumac leaf, glowing as if from within on an overcast Michigan day; ethereal wisps of spun fluff, delicately attached to small seeds emerging from a rough, gray-green milkweed pod; exuberant 2-and-a-half foot dandelions, bright beacons in the open spaces at the edges of the Alaskan rainforest; the gossamer wings of a dragonfly, perched lightly on pale green water lettuce floating lightly over the smooth, silky pads of a waterlily in my garden pond; the spherical head of an end-of-season plant, held stiffly upright on its dried stem, dark black seeds just waiting to burst free.

What’s been most exciting about the digital world is the ability to load images on my computer and magnify them exponentially. Images zoomed up to 400 percent larger than the original have allowed me to see things in the photos that I’d never noticed before, to see not through my eyes or the len’s eye, but through nature’s eye. For example, one summer in Michigan I took a close-up, face-on photo of Queen Anne’s Lace, a ubiquitous roadside wildflower. I took the photo near Lake Michigan, a waterfront setting that both soothes and satisfies my soul. But I focused on that specific image because it recalled childhood memories of my siblings and I carrying bouquets home to my mother and having her display them in pretty vases. When I enlarged that photo to maximum, however, I saw for the first time two brown-black ants, busily crawling along the lacy edges of the flower head.

My daughter tells me that I am a “sensory person,” that I view the world through a sensory lens. I’ve come to agree with her more and more. I have a passion for light and color, for shadow and texture, for shape and structure. These intimate images are my attempt to capture this world through nature’s lens and share it with others. I hope that you look closely at the images, and then look again.

Dandelions Milkweed Leaves

The Humanities Art Gallery is located on the second floor of the West Classroom Complex.

The Humanities Art Gallery is open
Monday - Thursday, 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
For further information about this exhibit or other Gallery events,
contact Cindy McNealy at 566-3464