New Artist: Emily Hague, Photographer
This month's exhibit at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden will be Emily Hague's first in Brattleboro. Originally from Weare, New Hampshire, she studied Geology at Oberlin College before living in Amherst, Massachusetts for a while. Last August, she and four friends bought a house in Winchester, New Hampshire. She has no formal training in photography, likes to "learn by doing," and is working on making connections in the art scene in Brattleboro.
Having "fooled around" with photography for the last five years, she's been taking her hobby more seriously since this past fall. Once she started toting around the old 35-mm manual camera her uncle had given her, she naturally fell into taking pictures. "I wanted to get more practice and experiment with techniques. I was enjoying the results," she said.
Nature is her favorite subject, perhaps because of her background in geology and work as a landscaper. She's attracted to the patterns, structure, and symmetry that abound in the natural world: "I can study it from a scientific angle, look at plant structures in a nontraditional way." Emily's influence ranges from Ansel Adams to sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, who photographed his work. She likes his perspective on things.
"A lot of times, you can compose something and it comes out different, or even better, than you thought," she said. It's the surprise of it that she loves -- between what she envisioned on the field to what actually develops in the darkroom. She compares it to buying Christmas presents, then wrapping and forgetting about them. "The delay... and rediscovery," she said, is her favorite thing about photography. About her style specifically: "I like the way it comes off showing things at a different angle -- especially plants. There's [already] so much conventional photography about flowers."
The point at which she realized she was an artist? While sorting through a pile of prints she'd gotten back from the shop, a housemate came in and commented, "I think you might be a photographer." He meant it. "I'd like to hope so," she replied.
Of course, public response helps, too. At a solo show at the public library in Weare, she received plenty of encouragement: "[People] complimented the photos of things they were familiar with. Some complimented on composition and gave me pointers." She even sold one print. She's also received technical advice from other photographers and even local camera shops: where to get prints developed and framed, exposure time, lens types, working styles, professional experience. "Even though I have lots of progress to make [artistically], I still would like to get it out there," she said.
So how does a young artist get a foothold in a community already swarming with artists? "The hardest part is figuring out how to start, talking to other photographers about what they've done, trying to fit in," she said. It probably helps that she isn't competitive. "I don't think I can even call it competition," she said. "It's just art."
Emily first made visits to all the local galleries. "I'm new to the area, so I'm not familiar with what's around." Upon finding out that the Windham Art Gallery (WAG) was actively seeking volunteers, she signed up. Emily is now WAG's Gallery Coordinator. This position will give her the opportunity to learn more about the community. She's also in the process of becoming a member of the cooperatively run gallery. "The process was easy," she said. "People were pretty communicative." Would she recommend it to others? "Yeah, definitely."
Her portfolio is making the rounds to other galleries, too. Another marketing strategy she's using is a Web site to feature her work. "If nothing else," she said, "I can show it to people to critique and give me pointers." It will also serve as an archive of her work.
In any exhibit, she prefers to let the photos speak for themselves. Her pieces are uniformly framed and hung. Still, composing a show can be hard work. She gets advice from friends. "I don't feel like I can judge the quality of my work," she said. "I like to aim for somewhat of a theme. It also depends on where I'm showing." This month's River Garden show is all color prints, even though she is equally comfortable with black and white. "I've often taken a group of individual photos so they go together [and will] eventually fill a show."
As with anyone passionate with her craft, making art for the sake of art is enough -- for now. In her perfect future, she'd "just keep doing it, learn more, experiment more. I'd like to make enough money to support it, too," Emily said. "It would be nice if it came from the art." She'd also like to "get better at taking photos of people." She's recently acquired a large-format camera and is learning to use it.
In October, Emily's work will be on display at the Village Cooperative in Leverett, Mass. Although Brattleboro's artistic community wasn't what initially lured her from Amherst, she said the scene here is "definitely more approachable. It seems like a good network to tap into."
On the side, Emily also plays keyboard with her housemates in their band Born Backwards. But it's the photos that take main stage.
Copyright 2003, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont