It’s Only Natural: Athens Photographer Exhibits Work At Union Arts

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The landscape of Southeast Ohio is dotted with hidden natural wonders.

Jim Shirey searches for the beauty hiding underneath our feet and documents it with his camera.

His upcoming show at the Union Arts Gallery and Performance Space features wildflowers that are indigenous to the area, some of which are particularly hard to find.

During his time as a math professor at Ohio University, Shirey’s interest in a different hobby led him to start practicing photography.

"I was taking pieces of rotten wood out of the forest and making sculptures out them and I photographed them," he explained. "I got more interested in the photography than the wood."

Shirey’s photography is a time-consuming effort. To capture his subjects, which range from ice to flowers, he uses a process that requires taking multiple shots with a different part of the subject in focus during each shot. This guarantees that every detail is captured.

He then puts them together using the program Helicon Focus to create one extremely focused image. The work requires complete stillness, but nature doesn’t always comply.

"I’ve been halfway through something and had a bee land on the flower," he said. "I just erase everything then. You’ve really got to know what you’re doing."

Friday’s gallery show will expose audiences to a part of the region they haven’t seen. Although the flowers may look exotic, they can be found while exploring the region.

"My hope is what [the audience] will walk away with is a sense of curiosity and wonder," Shirey said. "As a teacher, that’s the best you can do. If you stoke someone’s sense of curiosity and wonder, you’ve achieved the best you can achieve, both as an artist and as a teacher."

An art reception of Jim Shirey’s work will be held at the Union Arts Gallery and Performance Space on Friday, Feb. 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free. Prints will be available for sale at the show.