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Click of the shutter, wink of the eye

Wren Wertin
Special to the Daily/Katherine SchmidtKatherine Schmidt captures children's pensive moments, like Nate above.
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Local photographer Katherine Schmidt is responsible for the images. Her exhibit is on display through the end of the month.

Schmidt works exclusively in black and white. Though some photographers don’t like working with children – they present some logistical problems in terms of getting them to sit still – Schmidt specializes in young subjects.

“The essence of children – they wear it, they are it,” she said. “I think they show their character and essence, show it through their faces and eyes.”

In some of her newest work, those faces and eyes take up most of the space. The prints are 24 inches by 24 inches, and have a fair amount of negative space in them. Schmidt uses a macro lens to capture their expressions; in some of them, her own reflection can be seen in their eyes.

“Another thing I like to do is photograph their feet, the swirls in their hair, the napes of their neck – all those things that are really intimate, part of them,” she said.

One of Schmidt’s secrets for success is a total lack of props in her studio. Though parents are allowed to bring props if they desire, she is more interested in developing a relationship with the child.

“It’s not often you get a child that will sit and stare at you in an unposed way,” she said. “In my studio there’s just a cloth backdrop and one light. They’re fascinated by the light. I want them to ignore the camera, I don’t want them hung up on what I’m doing.”

Her studio is quite small, which works to her advantage. The space itself confines their movements and narrows their focus. Eventually, they focus on her, and she’s ready for them.

“It’s a character study,” she said. “I want to look at them, observe them and photograph what I observe.”

She prefers to work with children alone, if they’re old enough or secure enough without their parents.

Schmidt majored in drawing and minored in painting. Her background easily explains her figurative approach to photography. Though she dabbled with the camera for years, she didn’t pick it up in earnest until she had her own children.

“I was never a great babysitter, no yearning desire to have a passel of children,” she said. “Just once I had my own children, I fell in love with them and photographed them a lot. My friends really encouraged me. So, I got on a path, doing something that was more personal and unique to me.”

Her son is now 14, and her daughter is 11. She still photographs them, but she doesn’t usually display them. Though most of her work is in the studio, she does have a body of personal work. She recently completed a series of the burned trees from Mesa Verde.

“They’re very blown out and abstract,” she said. “And to me, it becomes more intimate then. I like to experiment with the fusion, over-exposing things, blowing things out, dragging the shutter, so I purposely don’t have things in focus.”

Schmidt’s studio is in her home. She and her family recently have made the move from Vail to Eagle.

“I feel a little disconnected from my buddies in Vail, but I’m a very solitary worker, and can spend days working on images,” she said. “I love the open valley, and the light out here.”

For more information on Schmidt’s work, call 328-2390 or visit her Web site-in-progress, http://www.KMSPhoto.com.

The show at the library focuses on local children.

“I really like them off center,” she explained. “I tend to do that. … You wonder what’s going on in that space.”

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.


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