Dehn Gilmore '02 points to a color photo of a slightly scruffy boy squinting towards the camera. "He generally looks irritated that I'm taking his picture, so his irritation makes him a good subject," reflects Gilmore about the series of color photos she took of her younger brother, Tom, who is shown sitting sleepily at the kitchen table in a rumpled, faded blue oxford shirt. The coloring isn't vibrant, but its restrained subtlety, combined with the appealing use of subdued sunlight and shadow, makes the picture pleasing. "I think that awkwardness tends to work well. He was just in the kitchen, and the light was gorgeous, so I went and got my camera," recalls Gilmore.
"I tend not to work that thematically; I just tend to carry my camera around with me. When I started out doing photography, I was mostly interested in inanimate objects, so I did a lot of macro photography, but lately I've been doing a lot of portraiture," she says. "Beyond that, I try to capture people in their environment. I've done a lot of photography that tends to be sort of personal," she explains as she displays some of the photos in her extensive color series of flowers in her father's greenhouse, which includes everything from orchids to sweet peas. "It smells amazing on a winter morning," she adds. "I think that the sense of smell is the least synesthetic for visual arts, though you can still convey a very tactile sense."
Describing her motivation behind one black-and-white print depicting her father sitting in his greenhouse (see below), glasses in hand, she says, "Basically, that's how I see him. He just spends a lot of time there cultivating flowers. That's what he wears on Saturdays. I've never really posed people for pictures."
Gilmore started photography in high school. She is a history and literature concentrator, but manages to take classes in the visual and environmental studies (VES) department, which isn't easy to do: "I think it's really hard to get into VES if you're not a VES concentrator, but once you get in, the resources available are phenomenal," she says. "But getting in, it's the struggle. It's luck and perseverance, which is a heavy and difficult combination."
Over the last couple years, VES courses have led Gilmore to experiment with alternatives to standard 35mm black-and-white photography, working in color and with large-format cameras. The results include spectacular close-ups of flowers and brilliantly colored vegetables, purple cabbage and an onion peel, colored in a radiant yet muted fashion.
One particular black-and-white print of her old roommate in Wigglesworth is particularly captivating. Using a desk lamp and filtering out the yellow light, Gilmore wanted to capture the "sense of her with all the decorations and her sprawled-out ephemera of papers." Gilmore pauses, before adding a last thought. "I think what I love about photos is the extent which it is a working project, to the extent that it's luck with the lighting. But," she says as she leans back in her chair, "I never feel like I'm completely finished."
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