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Photography as art

January 22, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

The word photography comes from Greek words that mean to write or draw with light.

Technology has come an amazingly long way since the first camera of sorts - "camera obscura" - was constructed in Italy about 1500. It consisted of a box - large enough for a person to enter - with a tiny, light-emitting hole. The light formed an upside-down image of a scene outside the box, and the artist went into the "camera" and traced the image.

The fundamentals of photography - making pictures by using light - remain the same more than half a century later.

The magic of the process may be taken for granted in modern times, but there is art in its results.

Some of that art is on display through the end of February at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

There are 73 photographs and 16 slides in the 71st annual Cumberland Valley Photographic Salon. Amateur and professional photographers from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia entered 232 works in the categories of still life and pictorial, portrait and figure studies, abstract effects and digital effects in black and white, color prints and slides. The digital effects category is recent, separated for the first time in 2002, says Amy Hunt, museum curator.

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Freelance photographers Keith Barraclough of Alexandria, Va., and Rebecca D'Angelo of Richmond, Va., served as jurors.

"I was kind of surprised with the range of different kinds," said Barraclough, who does commercial editorial work, portraits and teaches a photography class at Northern Virginia Community College. "I loved the variety."

He also liked the judging system - rating the photos from 1 to 5. Those with a certain number of points in each category made it to the next level. "It's a fair way to judge," he says.

He and D'Angelo had some differences and discussion about their choices. They decided that two works should receive recognition as noteworthy contenders for the "Best of Show" title: "Soft Dancer," a black-and-white portrait by Cynthia Mason of Hedgesville, W.Va.; and "Paris, New Year's Eve, 2002" by Beth Wisecup of Frederick, Md., in the color print, pictorial category

The Best of Show award went to "Donegal House," a black-and-white print by John Sharkey, who lives near Purcellville, Va.

"I was just stunned," says Sharkey of the prize. He entered three other photographs as well and says he was kind of surprised that "Donegal House" was the one chosen from among them.

He says he was in the right place at the right time when he made the photograph a couple of years ago on a trip to Ireland.

Sharkey and his wife were driving the narrow roads. They came around a bend, and he saw the picture.

"The light was just perfect at that point," he says. "It was just one of those moments."

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