Monday, August 6, 2012
Betty Northcutt shares her unique vision
“A photograph is not just a casual snapshot picture. For a photograph to become a work of art, it must have the sense of beauty in proportion that can be found in any other work of art, whether it is a painting or a sculpture.”
BECKVILLE Betty Northcutt’s million dollar smile can light up a room. That captivating smile reflects the twinkle in her artist’s eye. Whether that eye is drawn to the serenity of a quiet country road or the glimmer of a sunlit pond, she always trusts it to create a vision she can share with other people.
She is careful to concern herself with lights and darks, textures, color, shadows and the shapes of the natural world. She also knows it is an artist’s responsibility to explain these things creatively through the use of an artistic medium. She says, “A photograph is not just a casual snapshot picture. For a photograph to become a work of art, it must have the sense of beauty in proportion that can be found in any other work of art, whether it is a painting or a sculpture.”
Betty has always been aware that she sees things a little differently. When many people look at a scene or a flower or a doorway that opens up to reveal beauty, they will think to themselves: Isn’t that pretty? Isn’t that interesting? Betty Northcutt’s thought will be: Isn’t that beautiful? I wish I could preserve that image forever and put it into a frame and hang it on the wall so I can share the way I feel about it with other people. She says, “I have been observing light and beauty for many years, and in photography, I have found a way to translate my cherished observations into more concrete, personal visions using my camera.”
While her vision is sharp and demanding, she still finds that there are times in her everyday life when she is so busy with the demands of day-to-day living that she is almost tempted to forget about the lovely things of this world. That is when she pauses to photograph a reflection in water or a glorious sunset. The image she captures in the camera’s lens clears her mind so that she can absorb the scene. She says, “I can only hope that the peace and serenity I find while capturing these images will extend to others.”
The first revelation of her vision, which brightens her life through her art, came to her one quiet morning while she was visiting relatives at Lake Jackson. With her coffee cup in her hand, she stepped outside the door to see the silent sunrise fog roll in across the lake. She was struck by the beauty of the scene and, as usual, she wished she could preserve it forever. She put the coffee cup down, grabbed her camera and snapped two of her favorite photographs. They resulted in the images she calls “Autumn Fog” and “Willow’s Dream.”
She describes her work by saying, “In my photographic art, you will find an underlying theme of stillness - a quiet serenity - sprinkled with a hint of nostalgia. I find a spiritual joy in capturing the colors of nature’s palette, its hues blended by natural light.”
She shares the interest of many photographers and painters who like to work with a series of subjects. She keeps the topic of each series open, visiting and revisiting it with new thoughts and fresh ideas every time she makes a photograph. Some of her favorite subjects are flowers. It is her belief that flowers are pure, that even though their beauty is genuine and substantial, the life of flowers is fleeting. Because they are so temporary, their beauty becomes extra precious. More than that, their bright colors and cheerful shapes combine to make people happy. “A bouquet of flowers will always make you smile,” she said. “I always delight in the creation of a still life that can evoke emotion.”
Her subjects are not always as fleeting or as fragile as the life of flowers. She is fascinated by the form and construction of old buildings. Sometimes she finds that buildings that are falling down are the most fascinating, and she wonders about the stories they could tell if only they could speak. What could they tell us about the lives they influenced and about the people who once surrounded them? “When I photograph an abandoned building, I revel in an imagined history and marvel at the bare essentials of its structure,” she says.
She has done a continuing series of photographs of antique automobiles. While brand new automobiles are beautiful, it is antique cars that bring viewers a sense of nostalgia. They strike a chord of memory which takes people back to an earlier, and possibly a happier, time. She admits to the challenge of trying to photograph vintage classics. She explains that owners who have restored classic automobiles take pride in keeping them sparkling and shiny. This makes it difficult to arrange all the reflections in order to keep from accidentally getting a photograph of the photographer photographing the photograph. For this reason, she often shares the joy she finds photographing carefully restored classic cars by also photographing old cars that have never been restored. These images of what she likes to call “rust buckets” work well. Each of them has a personality of its own. One of her favorites in her “Rust Bucket Series “is titled “42 Ford Vintage.”
Although she has completed a series of abstract works, she insists that she is not much of an abstract person. She considers herself to be more of a realist photographer. But she says, “I just can’t seem to quit experimenting! My latest works, which you will find in my new gallery titled “Abstract Distraction,” have been exactly that... distracting. I photographed a swirling mud puddle and was in awe of the swirls. After I uploaded them to my computer, I played with the color of the swirls until it all just got out of hand. Somehow, I was enjoying the abstract results! Then, I started playing with the color on a photograph of a piece of petrified wood. Next thing I know, I have spent most of the week making abstract photographs.
She is careful to say that owning a camera doesn’t make a picture taker a photographer any more than owning an easel makes a person an artist. Still, she admits she is grateful for the digital explosion in photography which has turned the lights on in most of the darkened rooms. Digital imagery takes the photographer out of the darkroom and avoids the need for sophisticated darkroom techniques. It frees the photographer to spend time taking photographs. Her biggest acceptance of advanced technology involved upgrading from a simple digital camera to a Canon T2i.
Betty Northcutt lives in a rural community outside of Beckville. From her home base, she finds both everyday and remarkable subjects whether those subjects are at home or along the few roads that lead beyond. “Photography is mine,” she said. “My art allows me to concentrate and focus my energies and eventually to share what I see with everyone.”