'When I am Called to Duty'

Student to display fire department photos in Shepherdstown

Student to display fire department photos in Shepherdstown

March 19, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Shepherd University photography student started taking photographs at the fire department's bingo games.

She ended up responding on emergency calls with the department, gathering images of firefighters and enduring fire scenes where temperatures can rise to 500 degrees.

Amy Phelps has always been interested in photography, and in 2003 chose Shepherd University to study photography and computer digital imagery.

Phelps, 21, of Westminster, Md., was at the Shepherdstown Fire Department working on a photo project about the department's bingo games when the president of the fire company asked if she would be interested in becoming the department's photographer.


Members of the department were interested in having someone take photos of emergency scenes so the public could understand the day-to-day operations of the department, Phelps said.

Phelps jumped at the chance.

"Not very many students get that opportunity. Not very many people get that access," said Phelps, adding that her pictures are sometimes posted on the department's Web site at www.shepherdstownfire

Phelps said she was issued turnout gear and a pager so she could respond along with firefighters on calls.

Ross Morgan, chief of the local fire department, said Phelps has been able to ride in department vehicles under certain criteria. If Phelps was not able to ride in a department vehicle, she jumped in her Chevrolet Cavalier and headed to the scene.

Phelps has used the darkness of fire scenes or the intensity of fire to convey moods in her photographs.

The first call Phelps went on involved a fire in an outbuilding in the Middleway, W.Va., area. She came back from the scene with a somber photograph of the back of a firefighter crossing over a fire hose.

When lightning struck a house in the Bolivar, W.Va., area last year, Phelps was there to take a photo of a firefighter using an ax to cut a hole in the roof of a house to allow heat and smoke escape. The firefighter and another rescue worker appear in a smoky scene.

At the same fire, Phelps took a photograph of Shepherdstown Fire Department member David Bradfield, who was kneeling in a yard beside the home.

The photo shows fellow firefighters pulling equipment off Bradfield, who was on the verge of passing out after battling the intense fire inside, Phelps said.

In her work as department photographer, Phelps said she has developed an appreciation for the courage of firefighters and has now joined the department. Phelps said she enjoys being able to help people and has started emergency medical training as part of her work with the department.

Although Phelps is expected to graduate in May and hopes to land a job in the Baltimore or Washington, D.C., area, she now wants to stay in Shepherdstown and commute.

"I plan on being here for a while. I like this area. I've become involved," she said.

As part of a senior project requirement, Phelps will exhibit her work at the Entler Hotel on East German Street this weekend. The exhibit, "When I am Called to Duty," will start with a open reception Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. Gallery hours for the exhibit will be noon to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Morgan said the department had another photographer, but that was about 20 years ago. Morgan said Phelps has helped him with other duties, like PowerPoint presentations.

"It's turned out well. She's doing a tremendous job on photography," Morgan said.

Phelps said she hopes to someday work as a photographer for a magazine like National Geographic.

If you go....

What: Shepherd University senior Amy Phelps will show her photographs in an exhibit titled "When I am Called to Duty."

When: An open reception for the exhibit will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. Gallery hours for the exhibit will be noon to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: The Entler Hotel, 129 E. German St., Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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