A half-dozen years ago Beth Price was looking for a self-assignment to re-ignite her artist fire—something she’d pursue just for herself, no clients involved, no money on the line, no voices to pull her vision this way, nudge it that way. Catching her photographer’s eye was the then-emerging community of Great Lakes surfers, most notably those who rode the waves breaking off northern Michigan shores. That initial focus then broadened, reawakening her lifelong love of water, and her desire to photograph H2O and the people who live to be in and on it.
This month, Price presents a gallery show, titled “In Water, a Photographic Exploration,” of 25 images culled from the thousands and thousands she has shot in the ensuing years. Notably: All profits from sales during the show will be donated to the water protection policy organization FLOW, founded by renowned water law attorney Jim Olson. The show is on display the entire month of December, and the opening reception is 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 6. See the show at SPACE, 120 E. Front St., 2nd Floor Loft, Traverse City.
So before we talk art and vision, we have a practical question. Are you actually warm when you are out swimming in the winter water of Lake Michigan taking photos of surfers?
Well, I love being in the water and being outside, but I don’t like being cold. So, yes, I actually am warm. I recently bought a 5/4 wetsuit (extra thick) with booties and hood, and it really does keep me warm. I was recently out there for a good couple hours, and only my fingers and toes got a tiny bit cold.
And it’s worth it to get the shot …
You need to be out there. It allows you to shoot back toward shore, and it’s the best place to get the snow on shore and that lighting on the water, all those wonderful colors you get in the water here. It’s all about the components of the shot … the wave, the color of the water, the light, the position of the surfer on the wave, the landscape in the background … and, yeah, you have to be out there to get all of that.
When did your self-assignment from years ago finally turn into a gallery show?
Aaron Peterson, who put together the Fresh Coast Film Festival in Marquette this past October, called me and asked me if I’d be willing to share some of my work during the film fest. Aaron is amazing, so I knew that whatever he would be involved with would also be amazing. I was assigned to hang my images in the Ore Dock brewery, a venue for films and receptions. I printed some of the images on wood and others on cardboard.
A passion for water is obviously at the core of your work, but what else should we know about the theme, about what drove your choices for images?
I designed a show that I felt showed how important fresh water is. It was important for me to put that environmental slant into it. As far as awareness of the Great Lakes, how to protect them … it’s becoming more and more of an issue. I love the cleanliness of the Great Lakes and we need to do anything we can to protect them and fight for them.
How did the show get moved to Traverse City?
Nate Elkins knew of the show and asked me if I wanted to hang it in his co-working space on Front Street. I said, ‘What if we did it the month of December and we donated all profits from the show to FLOW?’ So I called Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, and she was immediately on board. It’s a great collaboration. It gives me goose bumps to think about it.
We are all thinking gifts this time of year, what options will we have?
I wanted to have many options for people. So you can purchase images in the show, but you can also have images printed in smaller sizes, for example. Also there will be posters available. We will have some special pricing the night of the opening, too.