Since her retirement to Silver City in 2011, Ann McMahon has been working steadily to produce both a Southwest New Mexico portfolio and a Gila Wilderness portfolio, which are featured on her website – www.AnnMcMahon.com. In doing so, Ann achieved another of her goals with the 2013 opening of her photography gallery in time the Silver City Gallery Association Red Dot Tours.
Ann has been a photographer since 1970, building a darkroom in her house in the 1980’s. She has carried her darkroom skills into the digital age, currently producing canvas prints from start to finish. Not only does she develop the images, she prints them to canvas in her studio, sprays the canvas, builds the frame and then stretches the canvas, attaching it to the frame for the final ready-to-hang art. In the past she worked for companies and organizations producing calendars, note cards, brochures, publications and prints. As a pilot, a large part of her commercial work was air-to-air photography and aerial photography. She has studied fine art printing with Charles Cramer for ten years and is now working for herself.
A Little About Ann:
Origins: My Dad was an avid shutterbug and had to be one of the first people to use a new film called Kodachrome. With Kodachrome out of production and the last lab to develop it closed in January, 2011, many of my Father’s slides, some of them from 1949, still exist in good condition.
Of course, I have been scanning these slides to convert them to digital and preserve them and, as I do so, large portions of my life unfold as my Father saw it. This experience has shown me the unique role photography plays in our lives. It preserves the world as we see it and I mean – as we see it. While a machine (the camera) is taking the image, there is an amazing interaction between the machine and the person holding it. Give the same camera to three different people and ask them to take a photograph of the same subject and you will get three different images.
It was 1972 before I was able to purchase my first camera and explore photography for myself. It began with learning from other photographers, reading books by and about photographers, making mistakes and learning from the mistakes. Over the years, I was fortunate enough to have the money to fund photography courses and workshops. The learning continues.
In 1985, my little graphics shop began operating with a new, graphic computer called a Macintosh and became one of the first desktop publishing service bureaus in the U.S. “The Mac” and new software called PageMaker, McPaint and McDraw stunned our first customers with rapid turn and complete typeset pages right out of the printer. No more cut and paste. Some of our publications we produced for clients were placed in the Aldus Corporation library. After Adobe purchased Aldus, it is unknown what happened to these.
The year prior to 1985, I had obtained my pilot license and instrument rating, It was a natural that I would combine the two to produce both air-to-air images and aerial photographs. One of the highlights of my photographic life was the publication, by Browntrout, of the 2007 Airplanes Calendar, for which I produce the images.
In the 1990’s I combined my love of wildlife and photography to work for Black Beauty Ranch. My experiences there, enabled by the Ranch Manager – who was himself an unusual and gifted individual – produced brochures, note cards, web images and other projects that furthered the work of this Sanctuary. The memories of the freedom he gave me to roam hundreds of acres among the bison, elephants, donkeys, and mustangs float fondly through my head to this day.
Many of my years were spent taking images of the beauty of south Louisiana, it’s abundant aquatic life, marsh lands and the magnificent birds. This included a special treat in 2008 of photographing nesting Bald Eagles who had returned to the cypress trees along the coast. I also photographed many Louisiana places from the air and began digitizing earlier images obtained on film. Some of these were historic in nature, such as the reopening of the Preservation Jazz Hall in New Orleans decades ago and the first cruises of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company.
This decade, I am proud to say I am a resident of New Mexico and enchanted with its beauty. There is enough color, landscapes and critters in New Mexico to keep my busy the rest of my days.
The Art: Photography expresses itself in a print. This is where the image attains its full potential. One can exchange digital files, look at images on computer, and rapidly spit them out of book machines and printing presses. However, they never reach their full potential until someone takes the time to develop them to a photographic print. Each photographic print takes the knowledge, skill, effort and eye of the developer and each photographic print can be limited in the number created. Each print exists to reflect light. In doing so, the resulting magic happens in the beholder.
What is exciting about today’s technology is that it puts the tools for the development of the print into the hands of the photographer, if he or she chooses. Yes, processing labs can still develop prints for photographers, but a photographer, doing the developing means the true meaning and nuisances of the print are more likely to happen. The printing technology today also enables a far wider gamut of color and tonal range to be captured in the image and then brought to light in the print. The results can be truly breath taking.
With the new tools come both old and new challenges. It means, as was the case in the past, the photographer must have a thorough knowledge of how to manipulate the camera to obtain the best exposure for the subject matter. It also means the photographer must stay current with the software tools that enable the rendition of all pixels to their fullest potential on paper. It means understanding color control between devices, keeping current with information on papers and spending money on printers, computers and supplies. It is a lot to manage and it produces results not obtainable in the past.
The Future: Photography for me is the opportunity to capture beauty so others might see it and experience it as I did. In between the complications of our modern lives and the harshness of existence that is the life for many around this Globe, it is wonderful to be able to see beauty, capture it, then reproduce it to enrich someone else, if only for a moment.
Really, all we have are moments.