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'Beyond the Photograph'

Springfield photographer pushes photographic boundaries.

<bt>A native of Iowa, photographer Jane Ernst moved to Springfield with her husband David, also a photographer, 28 years ago in search of a quality school system for her sons, Michael and John. She is currently featured in "Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall," a show at the Artists' Undertaking Gallery in Occoquan. She recently answered some questions via e-mail about the show and photography.

How long have you been a photographer?

My interest in photography started at a very young age. My brother was a photographer in the Navy, and when he came home, he set up a small darkroom in a closet in our kitchen. He would let me sit in there with him and watch as pictures magically appeared. I had my own Kodak Brownie Hawkeye camera that I used as a child. My most memorable photographic experience was on a family car trip to the West Coast when I was 11 years old. It was a wonderful three-week odyssey for a child.

It wasn't until 10 years ago that I became professionally involved in photography. My husband has been a commercial photographer since he graduated from high school, so photography has always been a part of our lives together. He has been a wonderful and talented mentor to me. The very first photographs that I had published were of race cars.

Describe your photographic process:

My photography has gone way beyond the photograph. Searching for a final image can involve many processes. Some of my pictures are scanned into a computer where they are digitally painted using a variety of programs, filters and layers. I do a lot of experimenting until I accomplish the artistic expression that I am looking for.

I also enjoy working with Polaroid film. I have done many Polaroid transfers, but I especially like working with the SX-70 film that can be manipulated by moving the soft emulsion with items such as a burnishing tool. The resulting image has a very painterly feel. These Polaroids are then scanned into the computer so that they can be enlarged and printed.

The photos featured in the show are a combination of the two seasons. I am very much a summer person, so it was my attempt to hold on to summer a little bit longer.

Influences:

I have been inspired by a number of photographers including Joel Meyerowitz, Albert Watson, Dewitt Jones and Douglas Kirkland. Their love of photography was very infectious to me, making me want to run right out and take more pictures.

What resources exist for artists in Fairfax County?

In 1996, David and I met Carolyn Ann Day, who lived in Reston at the time, who turned us on to the League of Reston Artists, and the Reston Photographic Society. There is also the Art League at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, the Arts Council of Fairfax County, The Northern Virginia Handcrafters Guild, and the Artists' Undertaking Gallery in Occoquan, to name a few.

What could be done to strengthen the local arts community?

For one, I am anxiously awaiting the development of the Lorton Workhouse Art Center that is being created at the old Lorton Prison site on Route 123. Both David and I have participated in the Artist's Palette 2004 and 2005, sponsored by the Lorton Arts Foundation which is responsible for the establishment of the art center. I would love to see a center created that would be focused on photo-based art.

Jane Ernst is featured with Jack and Bette Conley in the show "Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall," which runs through Nov. 7, at the Artists' Undertaking Gallery, 309 Mill St. in Occoquan. Call 703-494-0584. To see more of Ernst's work, visit www.ernstvision.com.