Everything from gritty news images to iconic Canadian scenes found by County photographer Phil Norton and his “County Outings” team will be highlighted in a six-week photo and multimedia exhibit opening this month.
“This country has so many visual stories to tell, Canadians’ stories as well as our own ‘Photography Adventures’ stories,” said Norton. “The photographers will tell you how I am always pushing them to move beyond ‘just another pretty picture’ and, instead, to tell stories in pictures,” said Norton. “The title ‘Photography Adventures’ is appropriate, especially for Wellington skydiver Jan Swenson and ultralight pilot Sharen Rieger from Adolphustown. However, most of us prefer our adventures with two feet firmly on the ground, but occasionally, we take to the water.”
The Photography Adventures show at Belleville’s John M. Parrott Art Gallery launches a year-long, travelling Canada 150 photography exhibition using framed prints as well as digital images on big screen televisions. Susan Holland, the gallery’s curator, lives in Prince Edward County.
About a dozen photographers have submitted work to be included in the first show. The exhibition poster shows Picton photographer Margaret Liddon on ice in Lake Ontario with her tripod. Also exhibiting are photo contest champions Janice Ruggles-Bolton and Daphne Creasy, both of Picton, as well as photographers from Uxbridge, Peterborough and Brockville. (See below for examples of their work).
The exhibition and featured artist’s talk nights are another step in the evolution of Norton’s photography group toward getting its work seen by the public and creating an awareness for members’ ongoing involvement in the community.
“We will be telling stories visually and using multimedia, audio and text. Our collective work tells the story of the County and Quinte region’s land and people, urban and rural and wildlife in every season.
“Getting out in all seasons and all weather is the key to bringing back amazing imagery of the County and Quinte region,” said Norton. “And by getting out frequently we eventually encounter everything – foxes, minks, eagles, dew drops on cobwebs, fog and rainbows. We get special pictures by asking for access to private farms, staying at unique lodges, being aware of nature’s cycles, and knowing best times to see waterfalls, warbler migration, and hoarfrost.”
Norton’s interest in photography has been a lifelong passion that started 45 years ago when he was a teenager buying his first 35mm film camera, a Pentax Spotmatic.
“I remember the day as if it were yesterday, the excitement of going to the big city with my father and my $200 cash earned from a summer of mowing lawns. I was waiting at the crowded camera store counter amidst professionals, all men, talking technical photography matters. Behind glass cases were big lenses to dream about and colourful cartons of film of all sizes and speeds.
“Photography led me to discover the wonders of nature and the life web of the forest. It pushed me past my reticence to meet people from all cultures. It put me face-to-face with news events and social issues and proved to be a better education than schooling.”
Since 1980 he freelanced for magazines and worked as the editor of a bilingual newspaper in Quebec. Now with County Outings, he shares that world with others.
“When I moved to Picton 10 years ago, the media markets were in transition. And, with talented and artistic people still moving in, photographers are a dime a dozen. So in 2012, using the old business trick of looking at a bad situation as an opportunity, I turned the negative aspect of “everybody’s a photographer” into a positive one so that the new wave of photographers became my clientele.”
That fall he advertised a ‘Photography & Fitness’ outing and for the past five years, a loyal and hardy group of photographers has been following him on trails, back roads and city streets in the County and beyond.
The program quickly expanded with a weekend retreat near Sharbot Lake, then trips to Hamilton, Wakefield and Mont St. Hilaire, Québec. Later, a group of five drove a van to the southern tip of Texas and back. In 2016, the travellers, cameras in hand, toured in Newfoundland, Arizona and Saskatchewan. Norton said the grand goal for Canada’s sesquicentennial year is the Yukon and Alaska.
“To expose my photographers to the same educational experiences I have had, I call on my personal and professional connections from years of assignments and travel and to meet special people I have befriended over the years including Hutterites, Mohawks, east coast fishermen and French-speaking Montrealers.”
Norton worked at The Montreal Gazette for six years from an office in picturesque Old Montreal.
“I experienced the referendum on Quebec separation, the Oka Crisis and the great ice storm. For Canadian Geographic I documented the US border, cigarette smuggling and illegal immigration. For Harrowsmith and Time I covered acid rain killing sugar maples and the ongoing dilemma of what to do with nuclear waste.”
Now he is also busy sharing the photographic travel program with a wider audience, speaking to various photography and naturalists clubs locally and in Kingston, Brockville, and Northumberland County. Two photography clubs, from Cobourg and Newmarket, have come to Prince Edward County for outings. The Brighton Photo Group joined in for a tour of Amherst Island last month and several youth groups and business conferences have signed up for custom photo outings to County scenic areas including Lake On The Mountain, Little Bluff and Sandbanks Park.
“It was at Little Bluff where I was leading two gentlemen from Ottawa on a photography outing that their wives had given them as a gift. Descending the steep trail I asked Blair Armitage what he does for a living. It turns out we’ve all seen him on TV as the Acting Usher of the Black Rod who leads the ceremonial march at the Canadian Senate. Other prominent poets, engineers, high tech entrepreneurs, bloggers and travel writers have signed up for trips or personal tutoring with County Outings. Never a dull moment!”
Photography Adventures multimedia exhibition of photographic prints and digital images is Feb 16-March 29 at the John M. Parrot Art Gallery, 254 Pinnacle St., Belleville. Opening reception Saturday, Feb. 25 from 2-4 p.m.
Norton returns to the gallery for a second series of talks in conjunction with his Photography Adventure exhibition. The talks are to be held Thursday evenings from 5:30- 8 p.m.
Feb. 9 – Phil Norton shares images and stories from his career.
Feb. 16 – Highlights from the Photography Adventures group travels over the past five years
Feb. 23 – A demonstration of the complexity of the natural world interacting with human activity
Local businesses and individuals are welcome to partner with County Outings as sponsors and patrons. Those interested in learning more about County Outings and its schedule should visit www.countyoutings.com and www.photographyadventures.net or email Phil Norton
Ultralight GoPro video of arrival at Kingston Airport. – photo by Sharon Rieger
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