Ann George lives in a small town in Louisiana with her husband and four sons. She created three images specifically for the CONTRASTS call for entry because she saw the competition as an opportunity to concentrate on one theme, decide what she wanted to say about it and how she wanted to say it. Her focus and determination in life, as well as photography, are truly inspirational.
This spring Terry Berenson, Senior Editor of Imprints, spoke with her about her work.
TB: Tell me about your Best in Show image, “Indifference.€
AG: Contrasts is such a great theme because it can be taken in so many different directions. I decided I would create three different genres, one serious and thought-provoking, one more light hearted and tongue-in-cheek, and one with no “message€, that just speaks to tonality and density.
Indifference is a composite I created to express a memory from a trip my family took to Africa several years ago. We were in the back seat of a big Range Rover, driving through a Masai area, when these young boys ran after us. I was struck by the contrast in our lives. These children lived in huts made of mud and dung and have absolutely nothing material, yet they were happy. I thought about God’s world, those boys and my sons for a long time after the trip. But I wanted the image to convey how so many people drive by others living in poverty and completely ignore them.
TB: Looking at the images you submitted to CONTRASTS, and then visiting your website, I can’t believe you have only worked in photography full-time for the last two years. What did you do before?
AG: My degree is in nursing and I was an ICU RN for many years, after which I built a hospital business that treated long-term critically ill people. I was very lucky to be successful while fulfilling my passion for helping others.
TB: That doesn’t sound like the typical path for a photographer. When did your love of photography blossom?
AG: I became ill myself and had let go of my business. It was a very painful time in my life, physically and emotionally. My faith and my family got me through it, and I’ve loved photography since childhood, so I turned to it again. I didn’t take it seriously at first, just took some workshops and enjoyed the camaraderie of other people and making friends with others who liked doing the same things I did.
As a little girl, I went around with my Kodak instamatic, taking pictures of everything from animals and plants to my parents’ back porch barbeques and fish fries. I can still hear the cicada and smell the hot Louisiana nights from those days, and I always hope my photographs evoke qualities of my southern roots.
Some years ago, I walked into a gallery in New Orleans and I saw a photograph by Josephine Sacabo and I was moved beyond words. She tells deep, brooding, intellectural stories with her images, and they pieced my soul. I decided this was the type of work I wanted to do, but I had no idea how to do it. I followed her work over the years and kept learning and trying new things.
TB: Looking at your work, I assumed you had a fine art background. How did you get so good so fast?
AG: My four sons are older now and I am blessed to be in a position that gives me freedom to devote time to the art of photography and not to have to make a living at it.
My work is very textured and hued. I’m learning all the time through trial and error, and studying the work of other photographers I admire, including Jack Spencer, Edward Curtis and Rocky Schenck. And of course, all the wonderful jaw dropping work of the pectoris’ of the past. However, the real turning point for me happened last year, when I took a workshop with Josephine Sacabo and she took me under her wing. That’s when I began pulling my first story-telling project together, The Three Chapters of Illumination: God Calling. Josephine has encouraged me to put myself out there and last year I was a finalist in the New Orleans Photo Alliance’ Clarence John Laughlin Awards. I was shocked – but it gave me confidence and a permission of sorts to keep submitting work as I go on learning and improving my technique.
I am humbled, honored and excited to have created an image that was chosen by Ruth Fremson as Best In Show for PWP. Indifference is a departure from my typical photographic character, yet I felt compelled to create it. When I asked myself, “When in my life did I ever feel (not see) the greatest contrast,€ I knew the answer exactly, and then found a way to do it. I believe it’s the message in the image, not the photographer, that showed favor.
For more of Ann George’s work, visit www.anngeorgephotography.com.
To enter PWP’s 36th Anniversary InternationalWomen’s Juried Exhibition, visit www.pwponline.org.
Terry Berenson is Senior Editor of IMPRINTS, Director of Development for PWP, and a freelance photographer specializing in animal portraiture.