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‘Inspiration Comes with Each Sunrise and Sunset’

Artist Profile: Walt Lawrence

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"Great Blue Heron"

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"Fog at High Water"

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Photographer Walt Lawrence in his studio.

Great Falls photographer Walt Lawrence will present a solo exhibition at the Great Falls Library, “Varied Views of Great Falls,” featuring approximately 25 landscape, landmark and wildlife images from his “Images of Great Falls” collection. He will be introducing several images that have been enlarged and printed on canvas. The photos will be on display March 1 through 31. Library hours are Monday through Thursday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-5 a.m. Ten percent of the exhibit’s sales will be donated to the Friends of the Great Falls Library. For additional information call Walt Lawrence at 703-757-6762 or e-mail at waltlawrence@cox.net.

Where are you from originally? Where are you living now?

While I was born in Massachusetts my family moved frequently, so I have lived in Pennsylvania and New York and went to the University of Maine graduating in 1961. I spent the next four years in the Navy in Washington, D.C., Morocco and Florida and then had the good fortune to start my business career in Paris and Germany. After finishing graduate school at Stanford in 1971 I moved to McLean and then built a home in Great Falls in 1977.

Who are your major artistic influences?

I have always enjoyed the work of Ansel Adams, but I cannot really say that his work or the work of any other photographer has been an influence on me. I feel that Mother Nature has perhaps had the greatest influence on my work. She sets the stage with landscape, water, wildlife, weather and lighting and I come along with my camera and try to capture the essence of what she has created. Even though I return to some of my favorite places many, many times to shoot, she always changes something to make it a different scene.

Any local community influences in your work? Other influences?

In the 30 years I have lived in Great Falls I have seen a great deal of change. So much of the rural charm has disappeared as old homes, stores and barns have been bulldozed down changing the landscape as more and more houses have been built. I feel as though I want to capture as much of what remains with my camera before it is all gone. As I have exhibited my work around the area I have met several people who feel exactly the same way

What do you do when you aren’t working on your art?

During my working life I never took the time to volunteer or to give something back to the community. So in 2001 when I retired from the rat-race I decided to enter the volunteer mode of my life. I started by spending part of each Friday morning at the Great Falls Library processing books that people have requested from other libraries. I’m still volunteering at the library and enjoying my relationships with the library staff. The library is truly the hub of our community and it is such an incredible resource for all of us.

I also volunteer as a docent at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum downtown. I have always had an interest in aviation, building model planes as a kid and going to air shows with my parents which I guess was one of the reasons I spent four years in the Navy as an Air Intelligence Officer. As a history buff I found the docent training to be inspirational. The curators provided lectures every Saturday for 12 weeks and then I worked as an understudy to a senior docent until I was qualified to give a tour on my own. While I enjoy meeting people and giving tours I also love the fact that I’m reading all the time about aviation and space in an effort to learn more about the artifacts and the people who flew them. When I can take my camera into the museum before it opens and shoot the craft that the Wright brothers, Lindbergh, Earhart, Yeager, Glenn and Armstrong flew my juices really begin to flow.

When did you first get inspired to create art? Did you always know that you wanted to be an artist?

I have always had a camera and liked to take pictures but I never really thought of myself as an artist. However it was in 2003 when I started to shoot with a digital SLR camera that my interest in photography was rekindled. I showed some of my images to Cristina Mittermeier, who is an internationally recognized conservation photographer. She also lives in Great Falls, and encouraged me to do more and to show my images to the public. Because of her encouragement I joined Great Falls Studios in 2004 and shortly thereafter The League of Reston Artists. Her encouragement really put me into gear and now the inspiration comes with each sunrise and sunset as I look at the light and try to determine where I should go for a possible image. My involvement in our local art scene has grown to where I now serve on the Boards of Great Falls Studios and The Great Falls Foundation for the Arts.

Where do you do most of your work?

When I’m shooting I’m somewhere in the Great Falls area frequently along the river. Several people have invited me to shoot on their property which offers many new opportunities for interesting images. When I’m working with the images on my computer and printing I’m in my studio at my home.

What do you listen to when you work? Is it reflected in the work you create?

This is an interesting question because when I’m out shooting I love to listen to the movement of water, the blowing of the wind through trees or grasses and the sounds of birds and animals. When I’m in my studio I will frequently tune into an internet radio station and listen to New Age music.

Favorite medium to use and why?

I’m using a digital camera 100 percent of the time because of the range of control that I have over the entire process from the camera to the computer to the print.

What would you consider the theme of the exhibit?

I have titled the exhibit “Varied Views of Great Falls” which really covers all the subjects that I like to shoot to include landscapes, wildlife and landmarks. I have selected several images and had them enlarged to 26” x 40” and printed on canvas which offers some very dramatic views.

What do you hope viewers get out of the show?

I would like to think that they will take away a greater appreciation of the natural beauty that surrounds our daily lives in this area and that perhaps they will take the time to enjoy this beauty whether they are in the parks, in their yards or just walking around the village. As I reflect upon my life in Great Falls I feel that I have been living in a nature sanctuary and every day brings another reminder of the natural beauty that I cannot take for granted.

Do you have a favorite piece in the exhibit?

I’m not really sure that I have a favorite piece. I do enjoy bird images especially when I can catch them in flight, perhaps this might offer some insight into my love for aviation.