Capturing nature’s majesty

Award-winning photographer to feature work at Second Story Gallery

A friend captured this photo of Cindy Kassab during a 2011 trip to South Korea and China.

“Aristography”

Pacific Northwest professional photographer Cindy Kassab will feature her work at the Second Story Gallery from April 4 to 28.

A First Friday reception will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at the library, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., from 5 to 8 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

The Second Story Gallery is open during regular library hours of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

For more information, call 834-4692.

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Kassab’s photo, “Attitude” won an award in the traveling loan collection of the Professional Photographers of America.

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One element Kassab uses consistently in photography is light. “We as photographers can create works of great beauty if we develop our technical skills and techniques, and increase our sensitivity to the wonders of God’s earth.”

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“Pond Fantasy,” was one of Kassab’s earliest photographs and it won a place in the Professional Photographers of America traveling loan collection.

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“Sycamore Alley” will be featured in the April showing at the Second Story Gallery.

Looking at photographer Cindy Kassab’s work is similar to gazing into a kaleidoscope of color, light and breathtaking natural beauty.

Kassab, 61, is the featured artist at the Camas Public Library’s Second Story Gallery in April.

She first caught the photography bug in her teens, when she moved from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles to the clear mountain air of Switzerland.

“Switzerland really turned me on to the beauty of earth,” Kassab said. “I was raised in L.A. but I kind of suffocated in the hustle and bustle of the big city until I got to go to Lausanne to finish high school. I thrived there. It was like the clean mountain air cleared my brain and made me a new person.”

Using an instamatic camera, she took several snapshots of the area, but never dreamed it would lead to a lifelong passion for photography.

After graduating from the University of Portland in 1975 with a degree in French, Kassab dreamed of being travel agent and seeing the world, so she purchased her first “real” camera, a 35 mm Pentax.

However, as she put it, “[God] had other plans.”

Kassab worked a variety of part-time jobs, scrapping by, until someone suggested she apply at Tri-Met in Portland. The organization was looking for female bus drivers, in an era when gender equity in hiring was just beginning.

It was at Tri-Met that she met a co-worker, who also had a passion for photography.

“He would show me different types of lighting, when it was best to take a photograph and where to focus,” she said.

Kassab, a professional photographer, is still working for Tri-Met and pursues photography in her spare time. She has a room in her home, covered with plaques and awards from various local, regional and national contests.

“People often ask why I don’t give that up and concentrate on photography, but I like doing both,” she said. “They’re a good mix for me, very different and yet they kind of complement each other.”

Kassab won her first national award in 1982, after joining the Professional Photographers of America and entering a print competition. She submitted her favorite image, “Pond Fantasy,” which won a place in the traveling loan collection.

“I was so excited I made a goal to go all the way, to earn my fellowship with the American Society of Photographers in 10 years,” she said. “I didn’t tell anybody. It was an impossible dream.”

Some say goals are dreams with deadlines. Within eight years, Kassab had earned the fellowship, which required a combination of various prints, as well as speaking as an expert at photography conferences. She also holds the titles of master photographer and photographic craftsman from the PPA.

“Dreams do come true,” she said. “I can’t believe it, and yet I know anything is possible with His help.”

On her road to the fellowship, Kassab entered the Western States Regional Competition and swept first, second and third places in the unclassified category two years in a row. Since then, she has won more than 50 other photography awards.

Early in her career, Kassab began studying the works of other professional photographers to improve her craft. She focused on Elliot Porter, David Meunch and Ray Atkeson, a highly-regarded nature photographer from the Pacific Northwest.

“I would study the subject matter and composition of his work intensely, then seek out the exact scenes he had photographed and study them,” she said.

Kassab has traveled extensively in the United States, Canada, China, Costa Rica, South Korea and other destinations to pursue her craft. She has also been a speaker at photography conventions in the U.S. and beyond.

Typically, Kassab finds most of the inspiration for her work on different trips. Before leaving, she will Google the area and look at different places people have photographed. She mentions that a large part of creating an excellent photograph is being at the right place at the right time.

“I believe that the occurrence and timing of many scenes I have portrayed have been downright providential,” she said. “We must see the beauty that exists, where it exists and how it exists.”

A primary focus of Kassab’s work is to find that beauty, and record it during a moment in time.

“The goal of my photography is to capture with my camera a work of art which gives as much pleasure to the eye as music does to the ear,” she said.

Over the years, she has had several gallery shows, but it will be her first one in Camas. The theme is “aristography,” a term Kassab coined to describe her work.

“I don’t like to do cookie-cutter, postcard photos,” she said. “There is an artistic bent to them, so I made up a name for it.”

Kassab is looking forward to sharing her journey with others, through the lens of her camera.

“It will be nice to share with people what is out there in the world,” she said. “I hope people will enjoy my work, and it will give them inspiration and peace.”