By Ruth Fordon
Rising artist, photographer Melinda Fodrie Sutton will have her first gallery opening on Nov. 26 at Down Creek Gallery, 260 Irvin Garrish Hwy.
She will display her photography both framed and matted, at an evening reception from 5 until 8 p.m.
Landscape, nature and architectural design capture her interest.
Last winter her almost daily photographs of scenic beauty and some of the visiting artic snowy owls posted on Facebook were stunning and shared widely.
She and her sister, Diane Fodrie Stankiewicz, a graphic artist living in Raleigh, roamed the island winter beach for two months just to capture this uncharacteristic visitation, creating an impressive portfolio of the photogenic owls.
This also sparked a desire between the two sisters to continue with their collaboration and led them to share summertime urban photographic opportunities in Chicago and Charleston. Melinda describes this partnership as a work in progress.
“We push each other to do photography, to sell online and in stores,” Melinda said. “But I don’t want to stress again. It is more about creativity and art.”
Melinda attributes her rapid success to a number of seemingly unrelated factors that coalesced last fall.
First she was about to turn 50, which often evokes midlife questions about life purpose and re-evaluation of one’s life choices to date.
Add to that a health crisis sent her on solo, five-hour car drives for several weeks to Raleigh for treatment. That is a lot of time for contemplation.
After years of dedication to raising her children, supporting the family business at Tradewinds Tackle Shop, volunteer work for several island non-profits and consistently putting her own needs to the side, a burning desire for change developed. In January, she told her husband that she would no longer work at the shop. After several years of mentioning this intention, she was ready to make it stick this time.
“I love walking and taking pictures,” she continued. “I see the world differently.”
So began her therapeutic “walk-about” period, 10,000 steps a day with her iPhone camera in her pocket. Soon she had two more cameras ready for action.
Photo sharing on Facebook led to lots of support and enthusiastic feedback from friends “liking” this new direction.
Her composition, vivid color, clarity and storytelling within the photos were eye catching and compelling. Encouraged by islanders, she donated a photo to this year’s Firemen’s Ball auction and was surprised at how much money was bid. Same with the Ocrafolk Festival Auction, another donation of one of her photos earned a nice sum of money to support Ocracoke Alive. Now she is selling her prints at Down Creek Gallery and at the Community Store.
Encouraged to pursue photography more seriously, last February she enrolled in a four-week class in landscape photography at the University of South Carolina in Charleston.
She began following other artists on Facebook and discovered the world of applications for working with digital photos.
With the emergence of social networking and digital photography, picture taking became much different from the world of film she knew.
“I did a series of beach photos recently and had over 400 shots when I was done,” she explained.
During the film era, “I would use one roll of film, maybe 24 shots, and have only one worth keeping.” The instant gratification, ease of production and editing tools have changed the world of photography and in this case, Melinda’s life.
Her world keeps expanding.
“There are so many things I want to do creatively, and I want to travel and see other countries and cultures,” she said.
Being asked to share her work with a gallery opening in November has caught her by surprise and she is still putting it together.
“I have zero photos hanging on the wall at home,” she laughs. However she is excited to face the challenge and prepare for the next step in sharing