James Bay Art Walk artist profile

By Anne Hansen

A wall full of portrait photography greets the visitor to Profiles Picture Framing and Photography, owned by Deborah McCarron and her husband Don, in beautiful downtown James Bay.

Photo by Deborah McCarron

Deborah shows me her extensive portfolio of portrait, wedding, and family photos. But these days the shop is focusing commercially on the kind of studio head-shots that people require for legal purposes, to promote their business, or add to their resumé.

This will be Deborah's second year in the James Bay Art Walk, to be held on September 14 and 15th. When she wears her Art Walk hat, she will be showcasing a portfolio of images shot in Beacon Hill Park. Deb prints her own work using fine art papers and ultrachrome inks. She mentions the print longevity is greater than seventy years and will outlast her lifetime. Deborah hopes to produce a few enduring images from her retreats into the Park over time.

"Growth" is this year's theme. She says that could include anything from personal growth, the growth of a relationship, or the growth of trees. "Last year I chose Beacon Hill Park to play out the drama with my camera lens. I had often found myself there, usually looking for refuge, and wanted to stake out a territory for future work that was accessible, familiar and personal. I joined the James Bay Art Walk to provide a continuing structure for presentation of my photographic journey."

Deborah was born in Halifax. Her family moved to Ontario after her father graduated from Dalhousie Law School and joined the municipal government. When she enrolled as a student at the University of Ottawa, she accidentally walked into the wrong lecture hall. "I showed up at the wrong class" and was captivated by an opening lecture on visual art, which was a real "eye-opener" for her. Ken Leighton, the Canadian abstract painter, discussed the 'line' and that every artist had their own line. Deborah was hooked.

Deborah studied at the University of Ottawa, the Banff School of Fine Arts and the University of Victoria. She studied theatre, painting, drawing, photography, creative writing, drama and more recently math and physics.

One of her interests is astronomy. She expressed much disappointment that circumstances prevented her from seeing the legendary transit of Venus last summer, a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. "I lacked math skills, so I decided to acquire them," she says of her love of thinking and learning.

Deborah moved to marry her husband who had moved west to Alberta to work for a northern college. Deb became a reporter and photographer for a weekly newspaper and later set up 'Seenss' , their first picture framing and photography business. Nine years later they moved to Victoria, where they had some family connections, and opened up their second picture framing business in 1986.

We both cracked up when I said to Deborah, "Don't you just love it when people say: 'You must have a really good camera!', which is like telling an artist that, "You must have a great paintbrush." Deborah considers her camera a loyal and non-judgmental "friend" that gives her a break from her cerebral inclinations. "It's the only time I don't think constantly," she says of her photographic excursions to urban streets and public parks. She adopted digital photography reluctantly and long after it became popular. But she works creatively around the fact that digital gives "too much depth of field".

Deborah had last worked with a medium format film camera that provided exceptional print detail. "I also loved the chemical process and printing because of the constantly changing appeal and that I was capturing photons directly when shooting. I accept I am doing the same with a digital process except the photons falling on the CCD chip are being converted into electronic charges. Nothing about shooting really has to change. I can go on as before the age of digital. It matters not what device is capturing the sun's reflected rays."

Deborah's photography heroes are Robert Frank, a Swiss-born American now based in Halifax. "He made photography personal, rather than just a documentary tool," she says. She also appreciates Robert Adams for "isolating elements against their background" and photographing the "The Place We Live" in his work on the landscape of the American west.

Deborah is currently devoting more of her time to personal creativity. Enjoy the fruits of her efforts on the James Bay Art Walk. (Deborah McCarron exhibits at her business in Parliament Mews Mall, 230 Menzies Street.)