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Capturing His Hometown

Great Falls photographer featured in Sugarloaf Festival

Samuel Bacasse loves going into Washington to look at the monuments, taking the time to sit and study them, waiting for just the right light to capture his images.

More often than not, Bacasse has the luxury of having the monuments to himself, in the quiet hours between sunset and sunrise when few tourists visit the Mall to observe the memorials.

A lifelong resident of the greater Washington area, Bacasse now lives in Great Falls, where he's been able to re-acquaint himself with photography, a hobby that grew out of a science fair project on astronomy that has become his new passion.

"When I think of photographs, I think of Mohammed Ali standing over Sonny Liston. I think of the photo of Einstein sitting at his desk, looking kind of goofy. I think of the National Geographic photo of the woman from Afghanistan with the green eyes... I think of the woman at Kent State looking up in horror over the body of a classmate," he said. "I wish I could do things like that. "

Instead, Bacasse photographs the monuments and memorials in the nation's capital, in solitude during the dark hours of the day, capturing the wonderment of the outsider and the adoration of a local in a single frame.

At well over 6 feet tall, Bacasse said he still has a lot to learn about photographing people and tends to shy away from portraits, but "I do the best with what I've got," he said.

Since leaving his mail-order business in the hands of his wife, Ellen Paul, Bacasse has taken the opportunity to travel and photograph the Indy 500, the DC Divas women's football team and to take a few photography classes which have given him some formal training. An avid traveler with his wife, his Web site, www.lovelypicture.com, is filled with images from trips to Martha's Vineyard and other picturesque locations and they are currently eagerly awaiting a trip to Italy in December.

"I just decided to pick up a camera and see what happens," he said of his second career. He put the Web site together and started getting inquiries about some of his images.

As a result, Bacasse has been selected to be one of 300 artisans featured in the Sugarloaf Craft Festival in Manassas, at the Prince Willam County Fairgrounds on Sept. 9, 10 and 11.

"I did my first show in May," Bacasse said, acknowledging how difficult it is to select images to take to the shows because it's almost impossible to determine what patrons would be interested in purchasing.

"The toughest part of the job is not getting too high when they cheer for you and not getting too low when they boo," he said of the people who attend craft shows. "It's really tough work, you're on your feet for 10 hours at a time. I really tip my hat to the folks who do this for a living. I do what I like and take pictures of things I like because, at a certain point you realize you can't make everyone happy."

The rewards for his work are surprising, he said. "I'm blown away by the fact that some people like my work so much they want to take it home with them," he said.

Bacasse considers himself more of an artist than a photographer because some of his photos have been retouched or manipulated through various software programs like Photoshop to alter their appearance.

"When you're an artist, you're in a position where you can show what it's like to be in a certain place at a certain time but also take it to another level and make it more personal," he said.

BACASSE IS AMONG the newer additions to the Sugarloaf Festival, now in its 35th year, said president and founder Deann Verdier. "I was very impressed with his slides, I thought he'd be a good addition to our event," she said.

All entrants must submit a portfolio of slides of their work to be considered for inclusion, she said. "This is quite a competitive show. We felt his composition and subject matter were a good edition to the show. There are so many visitors, even international visitors, who come to the shows — what better way to buy souvenirs than photographs from someone who lives there," she said.

Artists from all over the country submit their work for inclusion in the Sugarloaf show, said Josh Kelly, shipping coordinator for the event. The artists arrive at the show with samples of their work to sell, set up their booths and spend the weekend talking with the between 12,000 and 15,000 people who attend the show over the course of three days.

"The Blue Sky Puppet Theater will be performing at the show in Manassas," Kelly said, along with some artisans giving demonstrations of their work and some musical performances.

This will be the 25th year for the Sugarloaf Craft Festival in Manassas, Kelly said. Held this year on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9, 10 and 11 at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas. The festival is open to the public. Admission is $7 for adults, children 12 and under and parking are free. More information is available at www.SugarloafCrafts.com or by calling 1-800-210-9900.