A Quiet Space

In the Woods © J.Rosenthal

In the Woods © J.Rosenthal

A Quiet Space.© J.Rosenthal

A Quiet Space.© J.Rosenthal

The Old Souls © J.Rosenthal

The Old Souls © J.Rosenthal

“The urge to create, the urge to photograph, comes in part from the deep desire to live with more integrity, to live more in peace with the world, and possibly to help others to do the same.” – Wynn Bullock

Leslie Rosenthal Gallery

© Leslie Rosenthal

© Leslie Rosenthal


To learn more about the work of Leslie Rosenthal please visit her site at, Leslie Rosenthal  Photographer.

To read our interview with Leslie Rosenthal please visit, Leslie Rosenthal.

The Creative Process, Learning from Wynn Bullock

“Light is one of the most beautiful, mystical…expressions of nature.  It is greater than any object it reveals.” Wynn Bullock

Color Light Abstractions by Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

Color Light Abstractions by Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC


We are pleased to be able to share the story behind the history and process of Wynn Bullock’s “Color Light Abstractions”.  We want to thank his daughter, Barbara Bullock-Wilson for sharing the following story about this wonderful work.  Thank you Barbara for sharing  your memories and words.

His  creative process is inspiring.


By Barbara Bullock-Wilson

My father Wynn Bullock was a consummate practitioner of the craft of photography, using the tools of his trade to express himself with eloquence.  He is not easily placed within his chosen field, however, as he kept challenging and redefining the medium.

As an artist, Dad was never aloof from his family.  Many of his well-known images were taken on family outings.  Sometimes, he would go off and photograph by himself while Mom and I and my younger sister Lynne would explore the environment, collecting shells, rocks, leaves, driftwood.  If we happened to be nearby, he would often invite us to look through the ground glass as he was creating his pictures.  At lunchtime, we would gather all together for our picnic and tell each other stories of our day’s activities.

Occasionally during these outings, Dad would ask one of us to be a part of the photographs he was making.  This might seem like an unusual experience for many people, but, for us, it was a familiar, comfortable process.  For me, it helped form a deep connection with nature, a connection that has nurtured my entire life.  Participating in the creative act also gave me the sense that I was contributing to something important, not so much as a particular individual, but as a symbol of something more universal.  Although I couldn’t have expressed it at the time, modeling enabled me to experience myself simply as a form of being in relation to and one with all other forms of being.

Throughout the 1950s, Dad’s work in black & white photography brought him international acclaim.  Then in the fall of 1959, he entered a new realm of creative expression.  At the time, a friend was experimenting with lenses that were capable of focusing at extremely close range.  Dad became intrigued with the perspective the lenses offered and began experimenting himself.

Taking an old 35mm Exakta camera, a simple inexpensive lens and a dual-rail close-up bellows attachment, he constructed his own equipment.  Using this modified camera to photograph such things as glass and water very close-up (sometimes as near as 1/16 of an inch), he found he could eliminate the intrusion of “objects” and concentrate on the phenomenon of light itself.  Excited by this discovery, Dad all but stopped making black & white photographs and became totally absorbed in producing abstract color images or what he called “Color Light Abstractions.”

As a young boy, Dad had been strongly attracted to light.  Light…baking the desert…blistering bare backs in tomato and wheat fields…filtering through eucalyptus trees…making morning grass and orange blossoms steamy and fragrant.  His continuing experiences of its intense heat and brightness, its power to make things appear and disappear, its relation to life and death, made light for him the most profound and fascinating of all natural events.

In the late 1920s, it was light, through the paintings of the post-Impressionists and the photographic images of Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy, which eventually led Dad to end his career as a concert singer and embrace photography as his life’s work.  Exploring alternative processes such as solarization and using them to achieve interesting light effects was the direction he pursued during the late 30s and 40s.   In Edward Weston’s photographs, it was the subtle qualities of light that helped steer his course toward straight photography.  At the beginning of the 1950s, as he related to nature in new ways and began seeing things as space/time events, the significance of light became even more profound for him.  Photographing through the 50s, he was aware of light as an event inherent in and affecting all other events.

Color Light Abstractions Wynn Bullock 1960 © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

Color Light Abstractions Wynn Bullock 1960 © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

Color Light Abstraction 1960 by Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

Color Light Abstraction 1960 by Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

By the end of the 1950s, when he recognized the potential of close-up photography and began making his Color Light Abstractions, he knew he had found the means to explore light more deeply and powerfully than he had ever done before.  Taken out of context, it might seem as though Dad’s color abstractions were a radical departure from the mainstream of his work.  In relation to the total flow of his creative life, it is obvious they were not.  Beneath the differences of appearance and technique, Dad’s color photography was an integral part of his overall development.  There is also a clear, strong connection between his abstract color imagery of the 1960s and the last body of black & white abstract images he produced in the early 1970s.  That, however, is another story.

Dad created his Color Light Abstractions for about five years (the last slides he made were dated January 1965).  At first, he built a simple moveable plywood structure on the back patio in which he could work.  It was about 6’ x 6’, had “window” cut-outs, a door, and a roof.  His intention was to use natural light to make his images, orienting his little house with the movement of sun.  He soon discovered, however, that there were too many foggy, overcast days and too much variability in sunlight for it to be a productive set-up.  The light-house became a playhouse for my sister Lynne and Dad moved indoors.

For many hours each day, he would work in his cluttered studio above the garage.  A handmade apparatus, consisting of a vertical block of redwood attached to an unfinished metal base, rested on a stool.  The redwood block had deep notches cut into it and into the notches were placed six to ten layers of clear window glass.  Positioned over the top of this crude apparatus was his tripod-mounted, specially adapted camera.

Surrounded by two or more photo-flood lamps and other lighting sources positioned at different heights, as well as a prism or two, Dad would sit on a high stool, crouched over the camera, his head and shoulders hidden by a black focusing cloth which allowed him to see the images more clearly and vividly.  Always on the lookout for new and better resources, he would have a changing assortment of materials at hand – a dish of water with an eyedropper, a jar of honey, a tube of transparent glue…and differently patterned glassware.  For color, he had pieces of tinted translucent plastic, shards of stained glass, and crumpled sheets of bright cellophane.  Anything that reflected and refracted light was potentially useful.

The most valuable items in his collection were large chunks of fine optical glass that had been part of a discarded telescope lens from the Palomar Observatory.  With the aid of a special hammer, he would fracture tiny pieces off the larger chunks and these he used on the topmost layer of his apparatus.

After arranging a selection of the other materials on the lower panes of clear glass, Dad would watch closely through the viewfinder of his camera as he moved things around, adding a piece here, taking something away there, increasing the brightness of illumination from one direction, changing its position from another, and controlling the in-and-out of focusing process.  Forming and transforming images in this way, he created his light abstractions on 35mm Kodachrome slide film.  By the clock, it was time-consuming work, for only occasionally would all the elements combine into a picture that was “right” for him.  He never felt it to be dull or tedious, however, for the world of light expressed his deepest feelings and beliefs about life.

“When making these pictures,” he wrote, “I use light not to make objects recognizable, but to create beautiful images of color, form…and space/time dimensions through the action of light as it strikes objects.”  Working with light, he experienced freedom of expression similar to that of a composer or painter.  Equally important to him was the knowledge that his images were straight photographs of actual events.

I remember the making of these images very well.  If Mom or Lynne or I were in the vicinity while he was working, he would frequently motion us over to take a peek through the ground glass.  Occasionally, when he had something special, he would invite me to sit on his stool and stay awhile.  He would put the focusing cloth over my head and let me enter into the wondrous worlds he was creating.  At times, I felt like a space traveler, witnessing the mysteries of the universe.  Other times, it was like peering through a microscope, observing life at sub-atomic levels.  Whether the view was macroscopic or microscopic, what moved me was a sense of existence, elemental and transcendent, all at the same time.

Whenever Dad got a new batch of original slides from the lab, we would all be eager to see them.  Slideshow nights were special occasions.  Dad would load the projector and make the popcorn.  Lynne and I would help Mom set up the screen, arrange the chairs, and turn off the lights.

During these showings, everyone’s responses were valued.  If one of us didn’t think the image was up to snuff, that was openly shared and almost always the judgment was unanimous.  We adjusted the levels of light in the projector and played around with orientation – turning this slide up, that one down, flipping others right to left or left to right.  Many images clearly had only one “right” orientation or at least a generally preferred one.  Others worked well in a variety of positions, and showing selected images in different orientations became an accepted practice of Dad’s.

Dad included his Color Light Abstractions in what he considered to be his most significant and satisfying work.  His decision to stop making them emerged in large part from his feelings of personal success that, throughout his creative career, had always impelled him to seek new challenges.  For over five years, color had helped express the beauty, richness, and potency of light as a living force.  Abstraction had enabled him to get close to the essence of universal qualities.  By choosing not to symbolize recognizable object-events – for example, a crocus announcing the coming of spring – and by symbolizing instead a rainbow of color forms bursting through the darkness, surging upward and vibrating with energy, Dad believed he had been able to evoke more directly and intensely the qualities which both pictures could represent.  By early 1965, this stage of his creative journey felt complete and he was ready for fresh explorations.

His decision to move on was also influenced by productions problems.  His cubbyhole of a darkroom was not equipped to handle color.  Whenever he wanted to make a print from a transparency, he was forced to request use of a commercial facility over a hundred miles from his home.  In addition, the color processing technologies that were available to him in the early 1960s did not allow him to produce stable prints.  These production limitations dramatically curtailed conventional exhibition possibilities.  Although he shared the work as projected slides, this was not an effective vehicle for dissemination either.

Although Dad returned to black & white photography in the mid-1960s, he never lost interest in his abstract color imagery.  He continued to hope for improvements in printing and display technologies that would allow him to share it in ways and at levels of quality that were satisfactory to him.  He dreamed about self-contained projectors that could present the images as transparencies lit from behind or as revolving light shows.  And he longed for an affordable, accessible process that would enable him to make the beautiful, stable prints he envisioned for the work.

Unfortunately, Dad did not live long enough to see any of this happen.  He did, however, express the strong wish that his family would eventually find ways to make the imagery widely available.  That wish is now finally beginning to be fulfilled.

© 2011/2013 Barbara Bullock-Wilson.  All rights reserved.

Color Light Abstraction,1961, Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

Color Light Abstraction,1961, Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

Color Light Abstraction by Wynn BullockColor Light Abstraction 1960 by Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

Color Light Abstraction 1960 by Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

Color Light Abstraction 1960 by Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

Color Light Abstraction 1960 by Wynn Bullock © 2013 Bullock Family Photography LLC

“As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by light.  Light not only as an illuminant that permits the eye to see things, but light as a force and an entity in its own right.  I recall as a boy finding pieces of glass on the California desert.  Some pieces were of recently broken bottles.  Their colors were familiar and didn’t excite me.  Occasionally, however, I found pieces of very old glass with beautiful prismatic colors.  I thought only light and time could have created these colors and I was deeply moved.”  Wynn Bullock

To learn more about Wynn Bullock please visit Wynn Bullock Photography

We are featuring the work of Wynn and Edna Bullock as our R.O.M. for the month of December,to learn more please visit,December. 

Thank you to the photographers that share their work.



Leslie Rosenthal, Photographer


© Leslie Rosenthal

© Leslie Rosenthal


Leslie was one of our Merit award winners, chosen by our juror Joanne Teasdale.

“I choose this photograph for a merit award.  The composition is great!  I like the way the image is divided in two, that there is movement up on the right and away on the left, wonderful dynamic.  Graphically, there is a lot going on yet the child catches the eye, making the image about a person rather than everything else.  The high contrast intensifies the graphic quality, strengthening the photographer’s choice and the flowing white dress of the child brings balance.” Joanne Teasdale

Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a documentary fine art photographer based in Pasadena, California.  Born in Boston, Massachusetts and a graduate of UCLA film school, I started photographing in New York City.  There was a very invigorating sense of intimacy, that I could wander the streets with a camera and discover the many kinds of emotional situations that presented themselves.  I was drawn to make pictures in New York because the city is so vibrant and unique, but also very accessible – a lot of life is happening right in front of you.  Sometimes the everyday moments that make up people’s lives provide the richest visual tapestry for a photograph.

How did you get started photography?

My love of photography came to me from my father.  Beyond his encouragement, my father instilled in me an enduring respect for the story within the image. He gave me my first real camera, one of his old Nikons, when I was in high school and I have been out on the streets with a camera ever since.  I strive to create images that capture human intimacy and tell stories about people and the amazing lives they live.

Which photographers and other artists work do you admire?

That’s a difficult question to answer, because I feel the influence of many great photographers.  First perhaps, is Henri Cartier-Bresson.  His work was a source of real inspiration for me.  The power of the decisive moment, human emotion combined with a sense of immediacy and spontaneity.  I also love the work of Brassaï, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, Diane Arbus, and Helen Levitt.

Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day for you.

My process depends on what I’m trying to shoot.  Am I working on a continuing story or am I looking for a new story?  Also sometimes my choice of equipment or capture mode – film or digital – can also affect the way I approach shooting.  I’m a wanderer at heart; so my perfect day would dropped in some amazing place, somewhere in the world and to just discover it with my lens.

If you spend a day with another photographer living or passed who would it be?

This is kind of time travel question; do you want to explore the drama of Parisian nightlife with Brassaï in the 30’s, or go road tripping across the South with Robert Frank in the 50’s, or hike through Yosemite with Ansel Adams?  It’s a tough choice, but I’d hitch a ride with Frank!


© Leslie Rosenthal

© Leslie Rosenthal

© Leslie Rosenthal

© Leslie Rosenthal


How do you view this time in the history of photography?

This seems to be a time of incredible possibility in photography.  Images can be made and created in so many different ways. Anything you can think of you can create; it’s really exciting and possibly a little overwhelming.

How do you over come a creative block? 

Keep shooting!  Sometimes I come back from working and I feel I haven’t taken one good shot.  I might feel tired, or bored or that I’m shooting shots I’ve already taken, so I might take a break, focus on something else and then come back to the project with fresh eyes.  But, no matter what, just pick up your camera and keep shooting!

What do you hope the viewer takes from your images? 

When I shoot I’m always looking for those special moments in time – those chance scenes occurring in the blink of an eye, that reveal an emotion or a truth or a little human drama.  I hope the viewer feels a connection to the image and maybe even finds new realizations about themselves within that world.

Would you like to share a story about one of your images? 

I spent several years shooting a documentary project about a skate rink in Glendale, California.   At the Moonlight Rollerway, the Friday Night Skate is high school on roller skates and for a few hours, the rink is essentially an adult-free zone where kids who don’t yet have license to drive a bigger set of wheels, gather on a couple of smaller ones, to spin and race, date and preen, maybe just to hang since it’s Friday.

These kids, mostly from working class families, feel overlooked by society.  And as teens often do, they feel out of sync with their own families as well.  But inside the roller rink, this band of high-schoolers have created a place where they belong. When I first walked into the Moonlight Rollerway, I was struck by a profound spirit of youth and liberation, and for many Friday Skate Nights thereafter I sought to capture this energy with my camera.  I tried to make images that were both immediate and evoked in the viewer a sense of themselves as a teenager, even if they had never once ventured inside a roller rink.  The kids proved to be fascinating subjects, utterly open and unguarded, around this adult and her camera and remarkably willing to let my lens show everyone exactly who they are.  As one regular told me, “Everything stops when you’re at the rink. It’s just you and your friends and your skates.”

© Leslie Rosenthal

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

I think being a photographer completely affects they way I see the world.  It forces you to be open and in-tune with what you see happening around you.  As Jack Kerouac said, it makes me want to use my camera to “tell the true story of the world.”

Where can we see your work, and would you like to share any upcoming projects?

On my website I was recently told that my new work was all about horses, and I guess that’s partially true.  I’m currently working on two documentary projects, one about rodeo-life in Salinas, California and a second about a day in the life of a racetrack – from the horses, to the breeders, to the cast of track regulars.

Thank you Leslie for sharing your work with us.

To learn more about Leslie Rosenthal please visit her site at, Leslie Rosenthal Photography.

Chasing the Afterglow with Blue Mitchell

Full Moon © Blue Mitchell

Full Moon © Blue Mitchell

Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work of Blue Mitchell. 
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I currently live, work ,and play in Portland Oregon.  I’m a Montana native.  Most of my family is from northern California but my grandfather headed up a mining company in Montana and transplanted his family there.  I’m a good balance between Montana and northern California and find my current home in the northwest a good balance of the two.
I enjoy hand crafted photography, long nights in the studio, coffee, good bourbon, and that twinkle in my daughter’s eyes.

How did you get started in photography?

I took a class in college in 1998.  That’s all it took.  It was love at first… develop.  We got engaged, had a few rocky years of splitting up and getting back together and then finally sealed the deal up with a marriage in 2002.  The honeymoon period lasted for 3 years … flirting, experimenting, and maturing together.  We’ve been happy ever since.

Which photographers and other artists work do you admire?

It’s a very long list, so I’ll keep it simple.  Off the top of my head:  Teun Hocks, Starn Twins, Rocky Schenck, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Christian Boltanski.

Rear View (Holding up the Moon) © Blue Mitchell

Rear View (Holding up the Moon) © Blue Mitchell

Sky's Escape © Blue Mitchell

Sky’s Escape © Blue Mitchell

And what about their work inspires you?

This list is some of the photographers that inspired me early on in my photography studies.  I’ve always been drawn to photography that uses alternative approaches and mixed media.

If no one saw your work, would you still create it?

Of course.  I do make it for myself.  It’s how I challenge myself to address my spirit, our earth, our atmosphere, our little universe, and the connections between us all. Sounds kinda new age, must be my upbringing.

Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day of photography is for you.

My work, like many artists, is all about process.  My intention when starting a project is just to shoot things that I’m drawn to emotionally.  I have no one way of capturing images — I use many tools (cameras).  I labor over what the work should look like in the end which requires a lot of experimentation with printing, presentation, and substrates.  I use an acrylic lift process for most of my work.  In a nutshell, it’s a pigment print transfer onto a variety of substrates (wood, metal leaf, papers).

The perfect day is when a piece is finished and I title it, sign it, and frame it.  Done.  Mission accomplished — satisfaction.

The Illumination © Blue Mitchell

The Illumination © Blue Mitchell

Would you care to share the inspiration for your newest work, “Chasing the Afterglow” ?

This project started  a few years ago when I found that my creative time was limited to the evening, during twilight, and late into the night.  I’ve always enjoyed the night and especially when there’s a moon present.  As a goal, I decided to photograph every full moon night (of course I shot every chance I had whether the moon was full or not).  The subject matter varied though depending on the moons location and visibility.  Of course I shot many full moons, but I also captured what goes on under the moonlight.  When the moon was not visible, I spent that time working in the studio on creating my own twilight lores.  This studio work also allowed me to add a more abstract narrative to the project and gave me the freedom to add hand drawn elements with still lives.

With the rapid changes in how people make and view a photograph how do you view this time in the history of photography?

It depends what we’re talking about really.  People are writing books on the subject — It’s exhausting really.  If we’re focusing on fine art photography I don’t actually think much has changed other than the tool options.  This is the biggest difference between a fine art photograph and let’s say painting.  Photography is more susceptive to technology advances.  It is mechanical.  Whereas traditional painting is less impacted by technology.  Because cameras are mechanical I don’t feel the evolution of the photograph will ever end.

How do you overcome a creative block?

I have the luxury of producing a photography print publication, as well as curating for an online gallery.  These projects are a great escape from my own work (actually at most times, takes priority).  I work with so many creative and exciting photo-artists through these that I’m continually inspired by them.  It is a double-edged sword though, at times, it seems impossible to have an original idea.  Call me naive but it’s only recently that I realized that it IS impossible but that does not take away from the reality that we should make work that makes us happy anyway.  That’s the most important piece and pretty much the point for creating in the first place.

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

My art is a reflection on how I see the world, not the other way around.

Is there another type of photography or subject matter you would like tackle?

Plenty!  I started this journey in film making.  I’d love to go back to it in some way, some day.

Fusion © Blue Mitchell

Fusion © Blue Mitchell

Thank you Blue for sharing your work and words.

To Learn more about Blue Mitchell  please visit his site.  Blue Mitchell Photo

Blue Mitchell is also the publisher of Diffusion Magazine  and Plates to Pixels Gallery.

Please visit the Contact By Jake Shivery by Blue Mitchell, Kickstarter

Thank you to the photographers that share their work. rfotofolio-com

A Way of Seeing, the Photography of Elizabeth Opalenik

Reflecting by Elizabeth Opalenik

Reflecting by Elizabeth Opalenik

“Every picture tells a story…”

To us each photograph has at least three stories, one known only to the photographer, another  for the subject in the photograph, and yet another story for the viewer to learn, based on their experiences and imagination.  Rfotofolio is honored to share the work and words of photographer Elizabeth Opalenik.

Her work helps put beauty back into the world.


Would you please tell us a little about yourself?

How did you get started photography?

Did your family and upbringing affect your decision to become an artist?

My answer to these three questions is like a run on sentence.  I was raised on a farm in western Pennsylvania and left home to peace marches and my mother saying,  “I knew you were different from the time you were two.”  Spinning a map on a lazy susan landed me in Connecticut where I spent the next ten years managing an accounting department, restaurants and jazz clubs and having my own construction/design business.  That “Ms-Placed Lady” took a two-week photographic workshop in 1979 at the Maine Photographic Workshops and essentially never left, staying for over a year in 2 three-month resident programs and as part of the summer staff.  So began my journey to becoming a photographic artist.  No looking back, no regrets.  I think when you have a passion that is how it works.  I kept Westport, CT as my home base while I developed my photographic life, returning to Rockport, ME each summer to help at the Workshops, ultimately teaching there and in their France program.

I think being around workshop energy was the biggest influence on my work and has fueled my passion as a photographic educator in many places for many venues.  In 1992,  I married one of my students, a kindred soul named Enrique Martinez, and in the spirit of new beginnings we moved to California, where I am a photographic artist/educator with a passion for philanthropic projects.
There have been commercial and editorial clients along the way, and I love the problem-solving in those situations, but I am drawn to the creativity and seductive energy found in the workshop environment and still drawn to creating one of a kind images in my darkroom.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere…in nature, painting, sculpture, life.  I try to find something in every day that is inspirational and has the possibility to send me down another path.  In the right light, everyone can shine.



When did you start to develop a personal style?

That is hard to say.  From the very beginning I have been drawn to work with water and the beauty found within a subject.  Perhaps we just replay the same themes over but in different ways.  I  do seem to be consistent in how I frame and see the world, but my interests are varied.  It could still look like 36 people held the camera for one roll of film.

How did your “Reflecting on the Edge” develop?

I began photographing models in the water in 1979.  Throughout my career, images that resembled the work in “Reflecting on the Edge” would show up for me, but were never the full intent of the way I was photographing then.  I would put them aside and think “One day I will get back to this….there is something there…”  Then last October, I was working in Beth Moon’s pool and I just “saw” it as something complete and set out to make the images.  For the most part, what you see is what I have created in camera.  Like many things in life, one must learn how to see what isn’t there to learn how to see it.

What challenges do you face as a photographer?

Never enough time as life and the “business” of photography fill many days.  But I feel so blessed to be in this chosen profession.  I also think the biggest challenge all photographers face today is that everyone is a photographer.  Many are better than others and like thick cream, those will rise to the top, but we are saturated with imagery and instant gratification.  It’s sad to see galleries replaced by iPads, serious journalists replaced by iPhones and folks racing to post the next image without thought.  On the other hand, there are amazing images being made everywhere these days, just not enough places to display them.

Who are some of the artist that you admire ?

I have spent many summers teaching workshops in France and I think I have learned most from the french photographers through observation.  My home is filled with Jean Pierre Sudre images and I am always inspired by them and his sense of possibilities.  I am grateful he shared his Mordançage process with me.  Others would be Cartier Bresson, Lucien Clergue, Sarah Moon, Willy Ronis, Denis Brihat.  I love the reportage work of Salgado and Tomasz Tomaszewski.  Beth Moon’s “Thy Kingdom Come” series touches my heart.  With the new pool work I am looking at painters like Botero, Klimt, Picasso.  The list is long.

How do you overcome a creative block ?

Keep working.  It is part of the creative process.  Or take time to gaze at something in beautiful light…and then wet it!  That always opens a path to creativity for me.

Would you tell us about your workspace?

When I moved to California, I converted the detached garage to a darkroom/workspace and added french doors that look onto the garden and a beautiful red bird house that gives me pleasure.   The dining room was always my other workspace but a few years ago I added a glass room to the darkroom and that faces the other garden.  I am surrounded by other people’s beautiful art, a collection of bird nests, branches, shells and found objects.  I feed the birds, squirrels and visiting cat on the glass roof.  It is theatre with an interesting point of view.  It is important to have a peaceful place to rest the mind.


Please tell us what a perfect day of shooting is for you?

I suspect it would involve water.  I am so inspired  in that medium whether I am photographing a person, object or watching the veils on a Mordançage print floating in the tray.  For the last few years it could also be working in South America on the Amazon or in Cartagena.  There is that water again but in a very different venture.  I receive great satisfaction using my talents in a meaningful way and working on the projects with the eye doctors has been amazing.  I suspect I will be seeking more “perfect days” with NGO’s.

Where can we see your work, and would you like to share any upcoming projects ?

I am represented by Verve Gallery of Photography.

There are many portfolios on my various websites that can be linked at elizabethopalenik.com.


How did you first become aware of MMI?

The beauty of teaching workshops is your life becomes intertwined with people from all parts of the globe.  Often, they are doing amazing things as was the case with one of my former students, Dr. Joe Fammartino, a retina eye specialist.  He had been working with Medical Ministry International for many years running projects which left no time to document the amazing work being done.  I had become good friends with he and his wife, Toni after discovering we were raised 10 miles from each other in western Pennsylvania.  Over dinner, I volunteered for the project in Colombia to help tell the story and offer images for fund-raising.  I invited a Spanish-speaking student, Rita Villanueva, to join me.   Together we would follow 6 to 10 people back to their villages, so others could truly understand the impact they can have.

What type of work do they do

MMI aims to establish long-term programs and facilities to help address the needs of the less fortunate.   Currently they conduct over 100 short-term projects (usually two weeks) in 22 countries.  Teams of volunteers work on projects involving vision care, dental, orthopedics, physical therapy, water and sanitation among others.  Each team will build upon the previous teams work and after a few years, their goal is to establish a permanent care center.

What is your personal connection to this good work?

As a child I used to practice “being blind”.   Not sure why, but as a photographer, my sight is certainly precious to me.  I still have the braille alphabet card.  After the first project in Colombia, in which a team of 50 saw nearly 6000 people in two weeks, I was hooked.  Being part of a team that can help restore sight, whether through eye glasses or surgery, is a very rewarding experience.  With all the bad things in the world, it is good to witness the kindness of humanity towards one another.

Do you hope to document this work in the future?

I love this kind of work and for the past three years have seen my focus lean from fine art more toward the documentary philanthropic phase of my life.  I have gone to the Amazon with MMI and back to Bocachica, Colombia to visit the villagers from the original project.   Ironically, I started my career in 1982 working for United Cerebral Palsy Games for the Disabled.  Those games in Denmark also included blind athletes, and the one I remember most was a man named Tom Sullivan.  Last week, while teaching in Santa Fe, I recalled Tom to the Fammartino’s and the impression he had left on me even 30 years later.  Ironically, they had recently met at an event where Tom Sullivan had been the motivational speaker.   Small world, as he is now interested in the work being done by MMI.  Will I continue to seek these projects?  Most definitely, yes.

How can people help?

Whether you donate money or time, you only need to see one two-year old child have her sight restored from congenital cataracts or hear a grandmother say as she embraces her grandchild , “I’m rich, I’m rich.  Yesterday I heard your voice… and today I can see your face.”  Then you will know, you can make a difference.   There are so many projects in the world, get involved.  This year, my trip was funded by the generosity of my workshop students wanting to help.  Similar to a kickstarter program,  I offered fine art prints, my monograph “Poetic Grace” and other things in exchange for donations to help cover my expenses which generally run $3000 and above for me to volunteer.  Everybody wins and it is a way for me to blend both sides of my artistic life.   More information can be found on project stories and how you can help on my website elizabethopalenik.com.

Every picture has a story, whether it is yours or someone else’s story that inspired you to make the image.  Photography has opened so many doors in my life, from students and connections to world travel and all the joy that brings.

Truly, all photographs are self portraits.

Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your art and you time.


What Will You Create?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,580 other followers