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Shifting focus
Turlock photographer finds beauty in life
Chris Wilde, a Turlock photographer, holding one of her works from Ethiopia, with photos she took in Ireland and Finland (top to bottom) hanging in her studio. - photo by FIONA CHIN / The Journal
“She’s ragged,” says one student.
“Look again,” says instructor Chris Wilde.
The photo is of a young Ethopian girl that Wilde, a science teacher at Central Catholic High School and an adjunct professor at Modesto Junior College, took while vacationing in Ethopia
“She has tattered clothes but look at her brilliant smile and how she’s standing tall and proud. There's beauty in unexpected places and that's magic,” she tells them.
Finding beauty in the unexpected has inspired Wilde, a Turlock resident, to explore her passion for photography.
The photo Wilde is showing her class was taken when her car broke down and the mechanic who was called to work on it brought along his daughter. Noticing the girl’s happy spirit despite her lack of material belongings, a rarity in industrialized countries like the United States, Wilde took a photograph of her.
Wilde has taken pictures for 30 years but developed a penchant for photography while she taking pictures for her Earth Science and Geology classes at Central Catholic High School. Four years ago, she realized that she will never lose interest in the art form and started doing photography shows in galleries and pursued certification as a professional photographer through the New York Institute of Photography. For months, she honed her skills of taking studio, outdoor, action shots and more. After submitting several portfolios of her finest work, she received her certification. Since then, she has continued to have her pieces displayed in galleries, most recently in the Kristi Phippen Gallery in Modesto.
Other local venues where Wilde exhibits include Turlock Community Art Gallery and City Gallery, where she had two photographs accepted into the Botanical Fusion floral show. She also participates in the Turlock City Arts Commission’s Summer Garden Party and at least one a year, puts on a one-woman show rotating between a gallery in the Central Valley or Bay Area.
The photographs that make their way into these local galleries are images that Wilde has captured all over the world, from countries such as Egypt and Ireland and usually focus on landscapes.
“The world is so big. There is so much world and so little time,” she said. “Nature is always changing and the world has a story to tell but sometimes we are not very good students. We need to see beyond our day-to-day confines and see that we’re part of a bigger world. I love to travel and do a lot of travel photography. It’s natural. My camera is always with me so my photos are not always taken with intent.”
A prime example of her opportunistic photography is the body of work, which includes the photo of the aforementioned girl.
“The funniest story was when I was lost in the bush in Ethiopia. It took me three hours to find the group again. It’s funny in retrospect but it wasn’t funny at the time. It happened because I took one too many pictures. I was just in the moment. It was fun being lost because I came across a group of women with jars and bundles on their heads, heading to market, and of course, I took photos of it but it was fun being unlost too!” Wilde said, laughing.
She also came across a technical challenge during her trip.
“They always say professional photographers should use a tripod or monopod but that’s not always possible when you're bumping down a dusty road in Africa. El Capitan holds still but children’s faces don’t. You have to know your camera and its settings so well, so you can set the exposure in a heartbeat. People think landscapes are easy because landscapes don’t move, but not necessarily.”
Wilde thanks her instincts for some of her best shots.
“Photographers are born not made. I knew I had the eye for it. You can learn a lot through classes but you also need a feel for it.”
And she finds reward in giving others a feel for the moments captured in her photographs.
“My favorite part of a show is when someone says, ‘Oh, I love this piece!’ and I say, ‘Thank you!’ It is so exciting! It’s very exciting that something close to your heart touches someone else also and enough for them to open their wallets for it. I make my stuff affordable enough so that it’s in reach,” Wilde says.
To contact Fiona Chin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.