The work, a collaboration by photographer Monica Wooton and digital artist Ray Sparks, will be on display through December.
Photography is a relatively new medium for Wooton, who began pursuing it seriously when she served as editor for “Magnolia Memories and Milestones,” the community history published in 2000 by the Magnolia Community Club. Many of the contemporary images in that book are hers, and her work has also appeared in the News
Although Wooton studied creative writing at the University of Washington and still writes, photography has become her passion. You can often see her roaming Magnolia, camera in hand, with former Seattle Times Pacific Northwest Magazine photographer Roy Scully, who has been her mentor for some years.
Wooton works in natural light with 35 mm regular format film using no more than a 200 mm lens.
“I want a clean composition that says something ageless about a concrete object. The viewer should be able to sense the emotions evoked in me when I took the shot,” she said.
It wasn’t surprising that her 30th wedding anniversary trip to Italy in May 2002 turned into a picture quest. For 30 days (one for each year of the marriage), Wooton and her ever-patient husband, Jon, roamed the countryside and explored the cities, seeking quintessential Italian images. Monica was determined to bring Italy back to Magnolia in photographic form. Jon helped her amass more than 200 pictures.
Back in Seattle, a serendipitous encounter in a coffee shop brought Monica and Ray Sparks together. Although both of them were born in Seattle and have lived in Magnolia most of their lives, it wasn’t until this summer that they met.
Sparks didn’t study art formally, but he has always sought ways to express himself through art. He began with metal engraving and etching, but when he discovered the creative opportunities presented by a computer program called Photoshop, he knew he had found his niche. He has been working with Photoshop for approximately six years.
Photoshop is a well known digital product used by amateur and professional photographers alike. It allows the user to heighten color, crop images, insert figures and return glowing red eyes to their original and more attractive blue, green or brown.
Sparks mastered all of those techniques early on and began experimenting with the program’s other possibilities. He found that he could combine and superimpose pictures in many ways to create surreal and abstract effects. He also discovered the possibilities of blending numerous filtering effects.
“Photoshop encourages me to think more creatively,” Sparks says. “Much of the satisfaction comes from the experimentation. I studied classical music in college, and what I am doing resonates exactly as a musical piece would. The mood can be joyful or dark; I can create it.”
At first, Sparks’ computer and its program became the darkroom where Wooton’s pictures were brightened and refined. But then, as Sparks thought about the bolder possibilities, they decided to go further. He and Wooton selected several of her images for major reworking. One of the most interesting aspects of their exhibit is the contrast between these original photos and their digitalized, more abstract form.
The largest segment of the current exhibit is at Celebrations to Go on 32nd Avenue West. In addition to the photos, there’s a charming window display created by Wooton to illustrate an Italian American Christmas: bags of pasta, bottles of olive oil and wine, tree ornaments, children’s toys. And don’t miss the picture of Wooton’s mother, long-time Magnolia resident Gloria LaRussa, playing her accordion.
Mia Amore, Italia!, like the window display, provides the viewer with a sense of the richness of Italian culture.
The exhibit can be viewed at Celebrations To Go, 2434 32nd Ave. W., The Upper Crust Bakery, 3204 W. McGraw St., and Around the Block, 3308 W. McGraw St. Anyone wanting to see more can contact Wooton at 284-2430.
Freelance writer Nancy Worssam is a Magnolia resident.