When Betsy Phillips was nine or ten years old, she received her first camera, a Kodak Brownie Starflash, and her highlight was photographing Seminole Indians, wrestling alligators. Since then, her serious interest began to develop when she was studying interior design at American University. After a recommendation was made for her to take some photography courses to enhance her Design major, she ended up falling in love with photography. After taking Black and White and Basic Color, she took a three-week university sponsored photo trip to London, where she learned the most. That was the extent of Betsy’s formal photographic education. She is primarily self-taught, but Betsy’s art and design education contributed strongly to her pursuit of photography. Shortly after college, Betsy worked for a year as a custom B & W printer for a large mail order color film processing firm in the DC area. When her firm was given a large contract by the Office of Civil Defense, Betsy says that she spent 9 months working in a wet darkroom as a “robot,” custom printing by hand, thousands of 8 x 10 office party glossies. This turned her off to pursuing photography as a career; however, her interest remained solid.
Special qualities of Photography
Since Betsy’s childhood when she began creating art, she has continued to make art through a variety of forms, but she believes there are three things that make photography special. One is the immediate gratification. The second is observation and engagement with the existing world (nature, street photography or urban environments); and the visual delights that they offer when played upon, whether it is light and shadow, or when they offer humor. Thirdly, she always wanted to be an architect and wanted to paint abstractly. As a result, abstract photography is Betsy’s favorite genre. Photography allows Betsy to use her design sense to create abstract “paintings” and to explore architecture in all its forms: new, under construction or crumbling into decay.
Betsy’s Approach to Photography
Generally, Betsy’s approach is to “travel light” without the encumbrance of multiple technologies and gadgets. Her intent is to utilize design and composition to create simplicity, to eliminate the unnecessary, and to focus the viewer. She limits her palette to just a few colors, although she does often use strong colors. She wants to draw the viewer into her photos to appreciate the beauty of all things. Typically, Betsy is out photographing as often as 2-3 times/week, in spring and fall, less so in other months-unless she is traveling, when she photographs daily. She uses a Sony Mirrorless-6300 or a Canon Digital Elf.
Betsy is inspired by art and photography, art galleries, creative people and the energy of big cities, as well as the calmness of the woods and water. There are several people whom she admires, for example, the character demonstrated by Ghandi and Barack Obama. As for photographers, Betsy admires Dan Neuberger, who was her photo mentor; Minor White, Carl Chiarenza, Pat Wilder and John Kosboth. Additionally, she admires artists George Braque, Picasso, Alexander Calder, Giacometti, Edward Hopper, Henri Moore, Gauguin, Dechirico and architect Phillip Johnson.
Achievements and Aspirations
Betsy says that her greatest personal achievement was helping found Image City Photography Gallery, although an interesting fact about Betsy is that she worked as a Child Protective Investigator for 32 years.
Besides Image City Where to View Betsy’s Work
MuCC Gallery (142 Atantic Avenue; Rochester, NY 14607)
Arena Group Exhibits (Geisel Gallery, Legacy Tower, 1 Bausch + Lomb Place; Rochester, NY 14604)-next upcoming show: January-February
Artizanns in Naples(118 N. Main Street; Naples, NY 14512)
Gallery at 510 State Street (Rochester, NY 14608)