Monday, January 27, 2014

Mainland Winners: Donna Rosser

For Director’s Choice winner Donna Rosser, photography has long been a family affair. Her grandfather documented his early military life in the 1920’s with a Kodak Hawkeye, and he continued to photograph his family’s intimate moments after he returned home. Rosser recalls stories of her mother and aunt’s photographic adventures in the 40’s and 50’s, at least one of which ended with their father’s beloved camera in a creek. Now in possession of much of her grandfather’s photography equipment, Rosser carries on the family tradition. With her children grown, Rosser has reinvigorated her art and has been able to devote more time to photography.

Ebenezer Church Road

Her still lifes are influenced by her childhood and time spent with her grandparents. Believing work has broader appeal when it focuses on what is most personal, Rosser creates nostalgic images of familial items in her home to illicit “dear thoughts” that are personal to her but have a nostalgic quality that speaks to many. She manipulates the light in these images to accentuate the fragility and preciousness of her subjects, and employs camera angles that mimic the viewpoint of a child to enhance the feeling of discovery.

Family Tree

Grandaddy's Stash

Rosser’s winning image, Stars Over Low Tide, is evocative and eerie, and takes her work in a new direction with landscape and texture. “Being outdoors under a crystal-clear night sky is a humbling experience. It makes one feel so small. I always wonder how many others are out there looking out at the spectacle and wondering.” Photographing the land, Rosser is at the mercy of her environment. She seeks out landscapes that project a sense of place in nature: the closeness of the environment around her, or “the vastness of, say, a near-empty beach.” Unable to control the light and atmosphere, she strives to make photos that live up to her experiences.  

Director's Choice Stars Over Low Tide

Making a connection between the viewer and the photograph is Rosser’s ultimate goal. A successful photograph will stimulate emotions or draw the viewer into the image. At the end of the day, the most successful photographs for Rosser are the ones in which her vision has been realized. “If it pleases me, makes me happy, that is the best I could hope for. If someone else likes it – that is the cherry on top.” An active member of her photographic community, Rosser recently joined the Advisory Council for SlowExposures, an annual photography show celebrating the rural south. A child of rural Virginia herself, this annual event is a perfect fit for Rosser because it allows her to continue to explore the wild natural surroundings that she loves. “I am always looking for an image. […] A great nature shot makes me feel the damp earth beneath my bare feet from just looking at it.”

Berries Blue

Mainland is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through February 1, 2014

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