Sculptor picks up camera, uses it to create art

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As a photographer, West Virginia resident Stephen Lawson works in shadow and light. As an artist, he works in the far more abstract media of space and time.

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Photographer Stephen Lawson decides where to hang a photograph as he sets up his exhibition at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art. The photographer and sculptor grew up in Scotland and now lives in West Virginia.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Photographer Stephen Lawson decides where to hang a photograph as he sets up his exhibition at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art. The photographer and sculptor grew up in Scotland and now lives in West Virginia.

Trained as a sculptor, Mr. Lawson began using a camera to document his work. When he became interested in the earthworks movement, which involves building eco-friendly constructions from natural, native materials, he found himself drawn to using the camera creatively.

Today, he works with special cameras he builds to take time-lapse photographs that mark time, change and continuity in landscapes.

An exhibition of Mr. Lawson's work opens today at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art as part of the Augusta Photography Festival. The exhibition features his landscape photos and the cameras constructed to take them with.

"It draws people's attention to the fact that this is a very physical activity," Mr. Lawson said. "There is quite a lot of work that goes into one of these machine."

A lot of work also goes into finding a landscape to shoot and into engineering the sequence of photographs to capture the effect he's looking for.

Some of his photographs have captured the path of a shadow or the life and death of a bonfire, reducing the physical to abstract images that he feels more fully tell the story of place and time.

"I would hope that when people look at these things they understand that it is a graph, a timeline," he said. "The pieces are all about the mystery of allocated time."

Mr. Lawson concedes he is part artist and part engineer. Finding a spot to photograph is a far more intuitive process.

"You could write a book about that one," he said with a laugh. "I grew up in the country, in Scotland in an area that was very rural. I spent a lot of time outdoors. For me, that was normal.

"And I think that anyone who spends time outdoors ends up with favorite places. It's something you feel. There's just an attraction. That's what I look for."

For Mr. Lawson, the appeal of his images, which can take hours or days to capture, is that they are something of a dichotomy in terms of people's perceptions of photography.

"Most people think of photography as micro-time, something caught in 1/125 of a second," he said. "I like to think of my pieces as macro-time."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

SNAP JUDGMENTS

WHAT: Stephen Lawson: Time Scene

WHEN: June 19-Aug. 1

WHERE: The Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art, 506 Telfair St.

COST: Free, but donations accepted

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and by appointment on Saturday

LEARN MORE: (706) 722-5495 or www.ghia.org

PHOTO FESTIVAL: For more information on the Augusta Photography Festival and a schedule of events, go to augustaphotofestival.org.


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