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SHALLOTTE—A love for the water and the area’s many treasures has led one lifelong photographer to change her focus to art and share the beauty she sees behind her lens with others.
Gray Laughridge Wells has worked in the photography field for more than 30 years. She spent 20 years working for the Star News before venturing on her own and embarking on a career in real-estate photography.
Through the encouragement of a close friend, she has broadened her horizons even further, and her work will be featured at Sunset River Marketplace during July. A reception will be 2-5 p.m. Saturday, July 9. This is Wells’ debut exhibit in the county.
“I had never really shot ‘art’ before, so I started collecting images,” Wells said from inside her home overlooking the Little Shallotte River.
Her home environment provides plenty of inspiration for her artistic side.
“All you have to do is walk out the door,” she said. “It inspires me. It is just so beautiful.”
The upcoming exhibit will showcase 18 to 20 of Wells’ photos on canvas in a variety of sizes. The images range from flowers and birds to fish, boats, sunsets and seashells.
“I shoot what makes me happy—what I enjoy and think is beautiful,” Wells said.
Wells’ interest in photography developed at a young age, and she was working in the darkroom with her father at age 10.
“I was hooked on photography as a little girl sitting on my father’s knee in front of his enlarger. Sitting in the dark seeing the image shine on the easel, dropping the paper into smelly chemicals and watching the photograph appear was sheer magic to me,” Wells said. “The red light, the smell of the darkroom, it was really magical.”
Working as a photographer in the news industry taught Wells a lot of valuable lessons as she found herself shooting pictures in “nearly every imaginable situation.”
“I photographed wildfires, drownings and all manner of violence. Working in the news industry you learn to think fast, grabbing shots as they come at you. You learn to work in a myriad of circumstances when you’re dealing with news issues; most you can't plan for,” Wells said. “Photographing people, dealing with life's toughest moments or life’s greatest joys was always a learning experience emotionally and artistically.”
Photography led Wells into the commercial and architectural realm next.
“It has always been how I made my living,” Wells said.
In 2007 she and her husband relocated from Wilmington to Brunswick County, where she rediscovered her passion for the artistry of photography and the editing process.
“Watching the tide come and go on the oyster beds or an incredible tie-dyed sunset over Shallotte Point are inspiration to me,” Wells said. “The sights, sounds and smells of this wonderful place have sparked a new interest in my work. My father taught me what to look for all those years ago, and I haven't stopped looking since.”
For more information on Sunset River Marketplace in Calabash visit www.sunsetrivermarketplace.com or call (910) 575-5999.