Who is Kathleen Connally? What do you do, what is your favorite song, what did you eat for breakfast this morning?
Who: I'm a mom and a former Corporate America exec. I grew up in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and lived in New York, London,
and Seattle among other places. I've settled in Durham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I am very busy being a mom, tending to my 230-year-old house and starting a career in photography.
Song: It's a three-way tie!
Breakfast: I picked 32 pounds of blueberries yesterday afternoon, so I had blueberries and yogurt with sliced almonds and chopped walnuts.
- “Stardust” written by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish in 1927. There are over 1800 recordings of “Stardust” but the 1957 Nat King Cole version is the best. It's pure perfection. Download it and play it loudly!
- “Waltzing Matilda” – the unofficial Australian national anthem. You can read about the history of the song here: www.nla.gov.au/epubs/waltzingmatilda
- “Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke.
How did you become interested in photography?
Santa Claus brought me a Polaroid Land camera when I was seven years old and the “instant gratification” of seeing my images in 60 seconds really thrilled me. I still have all the photos I took with it. My family was always photographing events or making home movies or discussing
“motion pictures” or paintings or artwork in some regard; I'm sure it worked its way into my brain.
The theme for this edition of BLM is love: "Let those who have never loved love tomorrow, and let those who have loved love tomorrow..." It seems the world has fallen in love with the magical land of Durham Township. Where is your home, and what do you most love about it?
Durham Township is a 10-square mile area in upper Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA.
What I love most is how tranquil and balanced it is. That's largely due to a lack of development. Nature has been left alone for the most part.
What is the history of your blog, “A Walk Through Durham Township?” Has your photography matured as a result of blogging?
I started in January 2003 after I got my first digital camera. That summer I discovered Movable Type and I've been very happy with the flexibility it offers.
My original goal was to share photos of the place I lived with far-flung family and friends. I had no idea the site would become popular with anyone else! I've gone from 12 visits a day to several thousand a day. It's amazing that people in China and Russia are looking at my photos and resonating
with them somehow.
My photography has matured as a result of taking several hundred shots each week for almost four years. The blog was the catalyst for doing that.
"Photography is, or can be, a way of life.” You take pictures through the windshield of your car, place your camera in the middle of the road, send your children splashing through mud puddles and laying on frozen rivers! How have you managed to make photography such a prominent
part of your daily life?
I take my camera everywhere I go, no exceptions! And I'm naturally compelled to use it. It's like a limb or something! It just is a part of my life.
Would you tell us a bit about Bethlehem Steel – both the history and how you came to photograph the mill?
The old Bethlehem Steel plant is less than ten miles from Durham Township. A number of Durham residents were employed there over the years. It was an icon of American industry. It produced the steel that built the skyscrapers, the railroads, the bridges and the tunnels in the United States.
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is an example. The plant was like a city in itself; at one time 30,000 people worked there.
Bethlehem Steel ceased operating in 1995 after 140 years of steel production. Competition, changes in how structures were built, and perhaps some inflexibility on the part of the management caused the company to close its doors.
You can read some of the history about it here.
I've photographed it a few times from the outside, but I was recently able to shoot from the inside. A group of local photographers secured permission from the property owners and I was lucky enough to join them. I spent an entire day in there, roaming the property, shooting whatever I liked,
but it wasn't nearly enough time. I'd like to go back, spend more time, shoot with a tripod. It's a world in itself.
You have been showing your work lately. I love your photographs through a computer screen, but I imagine large prints must be spectacular. Have you enjoyed your gallery showings, and what have you learned from the experience?
I've enjoyed the shows from the perspective of learning how to make good prints, meeting people, getting together with family and friends for a happy occasion. I'm not thrilled with the process of creating tangible objects that are heavy and have to be hauled around rather delicately. It
puts me on edge!
Shows are opportunities to network locally. The many months of planning and producing are more about marketing oneself as a viable artist/photographer rather than creating a stream of income. It would be very difficult to make a living doing only gallery shows, although I'm sure people do.
I'm sure I can learn more about it. I'm not sure I want to, though! :)
I am intrigued by the emotional impact your work has on viewers. Here are several excerpts from your online guestbook:
"What an accomplished talent you are. Your work reminds me of this art historian of 19th-century French photography, the Fauve painters, George Inness, and Norman Rockwell. . . visiting this photoblog does my soul the same good that great art exhibitions have in the past."
Something about your work resonates deeply in the human soul - what do you think it is?
"The pictures displayed here are wonderful! So I am moved to tears by them."
"I have never seen anything more beautiful."
"I really feel something when I see your work..."
I think people really need to see open space -- uncluttered, without buildings or traffic or noise. I think people want to walk away from the pressures of their lives for a few minutes, do some meditating, get some clarity. My images show no pressure from society. Maybe that helps reduce
their blood pressure, I don't know! If that's the case, I'm glad people have a bit of respite from their daily lives when they look at my photos.
A visitor to your site made the following comment: "I consider you one of our area's official treasures and unofficial ambassadors. The only thing that worries me is that too many people will realize, through your work, just what we have up here, and then they'll all want in,
too!"Has your work been recognized locally, and what has the impact been on your community?
I'm guessing, but I think relatively few local people know about my work. My traffic is mostly from other parts of the United States and hundreds of other countries. There has been no impact on the community of which I'm aware. My continuing hope is that it will cause people - here and elsewhere
- to become very protective of the land and their natural surroundings. These things can't be replaced – when they're gone, they're gone.
Tell us about Jakey. Who is he, and why have you chosen to photograph him so frequently. And for all the girls out there. . . is he single?
Jakey is a local farmer and a good friend to the family. I photograph him so frequently because 1) I want to document farm life, and 2) because he lets me! He's very un-intimidated by the camera – and how many people do you know who are that way? I guess it doesn't hurt that he's a
hottie, too, hahaha. I get a lot of questions about him! Yes, he's single!
One other reason I photograph Jakey is so that his mom gets to see him once in awhile. She lives 30 minutes from here and Jakey works so much that he doesn't get to see her too often. I would like to photograph more of the area residents that way. I'm planning on putting an “ad”
on my site and in a local newspaper to see who might be interested.
You have such brilliant vision for light and composition. What thoughts run through your head when you are out taking pictures?
Thank you. I think about how light is bouncing around and off of things, how I might try to capture that effectively with the camera. Light is my subject and the composition is the means by which I draw attention to my subject. I spend extra time framing and experimenting with the camera.
I'll shoot the same scene from many different angles to find the one that works best, the one that tells the story the best. That's an advantage of working digitally, for sure.
“The photograph isn't what was photographed, it's something else. It's about transformation.” - Gary Winogrand.
We see great artistry in your work. I imagine a significant evolution occurs as you see a scene, compose a picture, process it, and present it. Tell us about the transformation of a scene to the final product. How much time will you spend working on a given image?
There are different components to what I do, of course. First and foremost, I think about how I can tell a story in a single frame. That's the spring from which my work flows.
In terms of producing the photograph, my goal is to spend as much time as possible with the camera, and as little time as possible at the computer. I've gone full-circle with Photoshop in the last few years. I learned how to use it by experimenting boldly. I'm now at the point where I want
to use it as little as possible. So my process today is to do 90% of my work in the field – to experiment with composition, shutter speed, exposure, ISO, tripod, etc., and come up with the best possible photo I can. Since I shoot in RAW format, I need to post-process, but I've really
limited it to the Curves tool and color balancing for now.
I post-process with printing in mind. I downsize the work for the internet and post it to my blog.
It would be very hard to say how much time I spend working on an image. Sometimes the conceptual part takes a few days in itself, more often it's totally spontaneous. Sometimes getting the shot right might take more than one trip to the location over several days. Post-processing and posting
to the internet take the least amount of time.
Is Durham Township heaven?
I think heaven is a state of mind, sometimes not easy to find. Perhaps by surrounding ourselves with fulfilling opportunities, we get closer to that state of mind. That's the main reason I live in Durham Township.
Thank you so much, Kathleen! Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Thank you, David and Ariela, for the very nice opportunity to talk with you. You asked very thoughtful questions.
And to the fans, thank you for visiting the site! I'm sorry I can't answer all the email and comments I get but I do love hearing from everyone. I especially love suggestions for subject matter, and I appreciate critique in my ‘comments' section. Thank you for interest and support!
Kathleen Connally is a widely admired photographer whose site has been enchanting photography enthusiasts since 2003. You can visit her online at www.durhamtownship.com.
David Shirk is a freelance photographer and avid photoblogger. You can visit him online at: davidunplugged.my-expressions.com.