When asked if I would take on an article/interview with Eve Turek, an acclaimed photographer that resides and plies her exceptional trade on the Outer Banks, I was taken aback. What do I know about photography? I take pictures. With my phone. Point and click. Ta ad! Picture.
I was also told this would be for Outer Banks Woman, an annual magazine dedicated to the creatures we men have little or no clue about…(if we’re being totally honest as a gender).
Like any clueless man that mistakenly thinks he has a clue, I said “Sure!”
First things first…go to her website and take a look at her “pictures.” One look, and I know I’m not dealing with anything less than fine art.
Now I’m flustered. As I scroll through her catalog, I wonder how I approach an interview with a woman who’s produced images that stun me.
My writing has been limited to raging political rants on social media or the comparable fluff that’s inherent in writing and interviewing musicians who, like me, work on the decks of local restaurants. Our “art,” if you wanna stretch things and call it that, is fleeting and intangible. Eve Turek’s art is true. Real. Visible. Revelatory. Touching and inspirational.
I see that.
I feel that.
My job, I guess, is to ask her who she is, how and why she’s able to perform magic.
Q: What brought you to the Outer Banks ?
A: I first came for a summer vacation with a grade school chum − whose mother was also my journalism and photography teacher − and they owned a second home, an old flattop that is gone now, in Southern Shores. After a couple years, my parents began to take vacations here. I moved here a couple years after high school.
Q: How would you describe your art?
A: I have started calling myself a Mindful Nature Photographer. I am trying to be aware and attuned to the natural world and any larger messages or lessons it might be offering me and then through an image that results from that moment, to others. It might be hope, encouragement, perseverance or love. I like to say, every image tells a story. There is always a story.
Q: Is there a photographer that was your greatest influence?
A: As far as folks I have never met, I have been influenced by a western photographer named Stephen Krasemann. He authored “True North: Diary of a North Country Year”. Another book is “Chased By The Light” by Jim Brandenburg, a photographer for National Geographic. He exposed one frame of film for 90 days. Sometimes, he found his image at dawn; sometimes, long after dark. My takeaway from his project is that there are images meant for me. When I go out, I am always trying to remember to ask, what is my image here? What is meant for me to see and share?
Q: What is it about photography that touched you ?
A: I find I am my best self, outside, camera in hand. Photography teaches me to pay attention. It asks me to slow down and freeze frame, a second here, a second there. In the midst of time passing, time stops. By my choices—I can present an image of timeless beauty, or of connections that last much longer than the fraction of a second required to trip the shutter.
Q: Do you love what you do?
A: Oh, my gosh, yes. Imagine this: you are holding a long, fairly heavy lens. You are pointing that lens at an animal you could never approach closely. You make eye contact. And in that moment, you make a connection. Animals need to know when they are safe—or not. I try hard to signal I am not a predator; I am here to hopefully love and honor them and to share images that spark the same feelings of love and connection in later viewers that I’m feeling in that moment. I always try to remember to say please and thank you. Please, may I have your photograph, and thank you, when the answer is 'yes'.
Q: Do you remember the first photo you took that evoked a “That’s really good...” response?
A: No, not exactly. I am my own worst critic I think! But I DO remember my first customer who wanted something larger than an 8x10. I had a small image in Yellowhouse Gallery of waves breaking in the Thanksgiving Storm of 2006. The next year, a customer saw the smaller photograph and wanted a larger one. And I thought—really? You want one of MINE, larger?
Q: Did you receive formal training?
A: I took two years of photography in high school, and that is where I learned to process black and white film. We never did use or learn color processing, though. I went back to college in midlife, and wound up getting a Masters in Environmental Education. The course of study for that degree taught me a ton about how to learn — how to learn about the environment around you, the habitats, the interactions, and how to teach those things. I think my photography and my blogs, which is my primary outlet for my writing these days, have been greatly influenced by what I learned for that degree.
Q: I assume that you’ve used film extensively in the past, and now likely have gone digital. Do you have a preference?
A: I love digital for several reasons. First, now I can process my own color work as well as my black and white work. I had good film equipment back in the day, but I do believe that the lenses being made now for digital sensors are sharper than anything I used in my film days. The other thing I find useful with digital is that you can go back and look at your metadata and analyze what worked well and what didn’t, and why. Digital allows you to make corrections in real time.
Q: What's your favorite location or area to shoot on the Outer Banks?
A: Anywhere there is wildlife, especially foxes. Landscapes? I do like the area of dunes in south Nags Head, and I love walking around the back side of Jockey’s Ridge. I love Alligator River refuge and the Pea Island ponds. There are little gems along the Duck boardwalk that I love to photograph, as well.
Q: Do you have a favorite moment, as a photographer, where everything “clicks”?
A: I have definitely experienced some “everything clicks” moments, and they almost always involve serendipity, more than skill. I have an image of a bear’s reflection in a little watering hole area on Alligator River refuge, at dusk, that stands out as one of those lifetime moments. The photo of a baby fox sniffing a blanket flower is another. Landscape-wise, two riveting moments produced polar-opposite feelings. A stormy ocean gave my husband Pete and I the roughest ferry crossing we have ever had, going from Hatteras to Ocracoke in the fall of 2008, and resulted in one of my best-selling landscapes. It is a dramatic, high-intensity photograph of a dramatic, high-intensity moment. I had the exact opposite experience, of an ethereal, mystical calm, photographing the cypress tree line in fog at Lake Mattamuskeet. That photo went on to win an international gold medal in landscape. I just couldn’t get enough of those trees, that morning. There is something wondrous about fog.
Q: Your galleries allow you to share your and the works of other worthy artists with OBX visitors. Does it prevent you from paying attention to your first love, the camera’s subjects?
A: Yes, and no. But having the gallery that allows me a livelihood that includes photography. They also allow me to share the work, not only the images, but the backstories. I get great joy out of being able to do that, too — and not only for my work, but for the work of the other artists and artisans I steward.
Q: Was there a moment in your life that motivated you to pursue your art full-time?
A: A period, more than a moment. Winter 2002-03. I was really sick, and a friend had given me Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s Way,’ about finding your creative life. I did not just skim the book, I did the book. I did all her little think-tank exercises. That book changed my life. “Doing” that book put me in touch with how deeply I wanted a creative, artistic life. Three years later, Pete and I bought Yellowhouse from its founder, Jack Sandberg, and I began photographing in earnest again that summer.
Q: If you could share an eye with any photographer, living or dead, who would that be and why?
A: I think I like my own eye, ha! I so admire a young photographer who grew up here named Jared Lloyd. Like me, he also has formal education in environmental studies and his wildlife work from all over the world is superb. I am constantly inspired by him.
Q: Is there one photo in your catalog that is your favorite?
A: Well, I have mentioned several earlier — Crossing the Bar (the stormy inlet); Meditation (the trees in fog); Stop and Smell (the fox with flower); Bear Reflection. That’s a little like asking a mom, so who’s your favorite kid.
Q: How do you know when a photo is definable as “fine art”?
A: Honestly, I don’t. I mean, there are criteria for excellence, like composition and impact and keeping the viewer inside the image instead of leading them off the edges. One thing I have learned from owning a gallery here for 12 seasons is that what visitors like and will purchase might be very different than what an art critic or competition judge might deem worthy as fine art, or an award winner. Folks really do want to connect with what they are going to spend money on to put, typically, in their homes. One thing we forget, living here, is how special these Outer Banks are to our visitors. They work so hard, sometimes at jobs they don’t even like, week after week after week, for their one chance to spend six days here. We are so fortunate, to get to live here. I want to give something that has value to them… a cherished memory, something they can look at and be inspired by.
Q: The life of an artist can be tough. Did you ever consider quitting and doing something else?
A: Nope! Not even! I love my life. I really do. Now, that said, I would like to somehow, probably in the off-season, fold in more inspirational speaking, like keynote presentations based around my photography.
Q: McCartney or Lennon?
A: McCartney! Although, as a kid, my favorite was George Harrison.
Q: How old were you when you were first published and how did it feel ?
A: Other than in school publications, the Outer Banks Current newspaper, which eventually transformed into the Sentinel. It felt amazing, to see my words and photographs in print, on the front page, byline and all. That was in 1980, so I was 23.
Q: You specialize in wildlife shots. I hear you ask your subjects’ permission. Have any refused?
A: Yes, sometimes! Sometimes I sense that they are simply uneasy. Or I ask them to come more in the open, and instead they just melt back into the woods, or turn their back and wander away. I feel disappointed in those moments. I try to remember there is something greater coming, later. That has always been the case. I’m guilty of thinking, 'I may never have this chance again!'So far, there has always been another chance, another moment, something even more special to come.
Q: Do you have a favorite, “go to” camera?
A: The newest one!! I have been a Nikon user for many years, and my current go-to body is a full frame D4s. I do have an older D700 that I am sending off to get converted to deep black and white infrared. I am excited about that.
Q: Do you have any hobbies that aren’t photography related?
A: I write, not just my blogs, but also essays and children’s stories. And I write music. I’ve been playing guitar and writing songs more than 40 years now. I also art journal — sort of a cross between scrapbooking and creating a portable vision board.
Q: As a great photographer that happens to be a woman, is there any advice you’d give to any young person just starting out?
A: Yes. The first thing I say is: Notice what you notice. What catches your eye? What catches your breath? What do you find yourself drawn to? I believe we all have creative gifts. It helps to have believing mirrors, to use Julia Cameron’s phrase, who can help to point us in the direction our heart already wants to go. I give them the advice Ray Matthews gave me, back in 1981, when I interviewed him for the Outer Banks Magazine. He told me to “burn film.” Take LOTS of photographs, learn from everything, especially my mistakes, and don’t assume the majority of images will be keepers. Good advice, even in the digital era when we can literally take thousands of images on one large memory card. Learn to edit your own work. If you can’t, reach out to a professional to help you spot your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.
Q: If you were me, what question should I be asking you?
A: Here’s one: Everybody has a cell phone nowadays; everybody is a photographer. What value or role does a professional photographer have? Are professional photographers doomed to become obsolete or irrelevant? And here is what I would say to that question. I don’t think so, and I hope not. Artists, including photographers, have precious roles to play in our present and our future. I think my own life’s purpose is to connect. Spiritually-speaking. We are one world, after all. We are so much more alike than we are different. Our differences can be celebrated and honored. That is what I am trying to do: to honor. My role, my calling, is to find beauty, to find love, to find reasons to hope every day. Photography helps me do that. I started a little personal project this year that I’ve been grateful to see inspiring others. I post a heart photograph every day, something I have spotted in the landscape. I’ve been seeing and seeking and finding hearts for years, inspired by a poem by ee cummings I read in high school, that starts,' i carry your heart with me, i carry it in my heart.' I love that. Think about that line a minute. What do you carry in your heart? Whom? Our hearts are bigger, more expansive, with more capacity than we give them credit for. Seeing and photographing and posting hearts every day helps me remember what I want to fill my heart with, fill my life with, and that’s Love.