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Kathleen Connally ...
With camera, she wanders through
Durham hills and fields
by Kathryn Finegan Clark
When she wanders through fields and climbs hills in Durham Township, Bucks County, and across the Delaware in New Jersey, fine arts photographer Kathleen Connally is never without her camera.
Although the slender blonde mother often takes her 6-year-old son, Isaac, with her, she's frequently alone, either walking or driving.
Her camera, a Canon D5, travels with her along with "an arsenal of lenses."
Because she has recorded her journeys on the Internet almost daily for four years people all over the world have seen what she sees, sharing her views of a landscape she describes as "magical."
And they love what they see. Her web site, durhamtownship.com, has registered more than 7 million pageviews a year. Reflecting on the popularity of her photos, she says, "I think people need to see open space. They want to walk away from the pressures of their lives for a few minutes."
Connally is still discovering new places within about 10 miles of her home. She takes other photos, of course, a commercial job here and there, work for a television channel, photos of plants – she's also a Penn State Master Gardener – animals, architecture, portraits, but it's clear where her heart rests. She always returns to Durham.
"We're so lucky. This place is absolutely gorgeous," she says. Totally committed, she ranks her work next to motherhood in her priorities, and she has a long view of its cultural impact. "I want people to see my work a thousand years from now. If I could, I would write it into my will that I want my photos to stay available on the Internet forever. My photos show what's here now. I wish people in the future would want to use them for research."
In January 2003, just after she got her first digital camera, Connally started her photoblog, "A Walk through Durham Township, Pennsylvania." She takes hundreds of pictures every week and almost daily posts her best shots on the photoblog, which she describes as "an online visual diary." The photoblog has won her an armload of important photography awards.
She shoots primarily in Durham, much of its land untouched by development. Connally, who was 7 when she got her first camera, grew up in Andrew Wyeth country in Chadds Ford, and believes the Wyeth family's artistry has deeply influenced her work, but nine years ago she fell in love with Durham. She and her husband, Craig Danuloff, bought a 230-year-old stone house in the township's far north where cornfields almost outnumber houses.
Perhaps because she has a background in corporate America and has lived in New York and London and Seattle, she values what she calls Durham's "tranquility and balance." She calls her photoblog "a permanent work in progress."
She initially wanted only to post her favorite photos for family and a few friends to see, but somehow, her work was caught up in a kind of Internet firestorm of excitement; word-of-mouth spread her images across continents.
Connally considers her work "a documentative process, midway between art and journalism." For example, she's been following a young Durham farmer around as he does his daily chores, documenting every aspect of his work. She believes farming in this area is an endangered occupation and she wants to record it for posterity.
"I've watched people looking over old photos. They're looking back with fascination. I want people to look at my photos that way," she says. But hers will never be just "old photos." They pulse with life, jump with unexpected color.
It was this same kind of documentary zeal that led Connally to the iconic Bethlehem Steel plant not far from Durham. She had photographed the exterior of the plant, now closed, several times and in fact won an international prize for one of her images. She later joined a group of local photographers and spent an entire day there, roaming the property, shooting whatever she liked, recording the ghost of a plant for the ages.
She's exhibited her work at local shows in the past few years and her next show will be at Palisades High School from Jan. 15 through March 1. More and more she's discovered, she's not enamored with the physical aspects of printmaking and lugging around heavy frames requiring delicate handling.
She'd rather spend her time shooting images and sending them off to cyberspace-to the world.