May 2011: Photos by jude McConkey
Header image: Photos by jude McConkey

Featured Artist: jude McConkey

Last updated: May 1, 2011

jude McConkey, who was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, was an art major at Lourdes Academy in Cleveland, but that was the extent of her formal art training. She moved to the EUP in 1980 with her husband, who grew up in Brimley, and she worked at “an array of jobs from Life Style Editor of The Evening News in the 80’s, to assistant manager of a credit union, to the photographer at the newspaper twenty years later.” Her father was a photographer, but she “was never interested in it when I was younger”. However, when she began serious photography in 2003, she realized immediately that it was what she had been searching for to express her creative side. She says she is self-taught, learning through trial and error, although she credits Kathy and Eric Demaray at Sault Realism with a good deal of help and encouragement.

jude has photographed weddings and completed assignments for Lake Superior Magazine and Sports Illustrated Kid’s Magazine and for various newspapers in addition to the Evening News. Two of her photographs are part of the set decoration on the television series “Modern Family”. jude won an Honorable Mention in the Olive Craig Gallery’s juried “Black to White” exhibition in 2005 and Second Place in the 2008 “Blues” exhibition. In 2005 she won the National Photo Awards “Freedom Cup” for the photograph at bottom left. Her photograph Snow Tree (below: regular version and miniature hanging photograph) was a finalist in the 2008 Best of Photography contest. Last October jude resigned as photographer for The Evening News to work exclusively for her own business, j McConkey Photography.

Works by jude McConkey
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

Reincarnation, by jude mcConkey

Reincarnation.
Winner of the 2005 National Photo Awards “Freedom Cup”

Snow Tree by jude McConkey

Snow Tree.
Finalist in the 2008 Best of Photography contest.

Snow Tree (wearable) by jude McConkey

Snow Tree (wearable)

jude uses Photoshop to enhance and overlay her original photographs with the result that her work represents what she sees in her imagination, which, she says, “isn’t always what’s in reality”. She no longer takes assignments that she doesn’t want to do and takes very few commissions, preferring to go with the flow and work in her own style. While she formerly took photographs that she thought would sell in this area, she now sells what appeals to her having made the decision to do so “because I didn’t want to hate photography and think of it as a job” and because of “knowing what I want to be remembered for.” Her photographs and wearable art are sold in galleries as well as over the internet.

Photographers are often defined by categories based on what they choose to photograph—portraits, news, animals, nature, etc. Diane Arbus is known for black and white square photographs of deviant and marginal people; Yousuf Karsh for portraits that exposed the character of his subjects; Richard Avedon for fashion photographs; Jim Brandenburg for environmental photography (think wolves); Mathew Brady as the father of photojournalism; Ansel Adams for landscape photography. etc. When the names of famous photographers are mentioned, they bring images to mind. Their camera is a tool used to promote a cause, illustrate a point, inform, and illuminate. Sometimes a photograph’s greatest impact comes not from the skill of the photographer or the composition of the picture but merely from the fact that the photographer was in the right place at the right time. Recent shaky videos of the tsunami, taken by someone with a cell phone, are a case in point. They conveyed the otherwise indescribable impact of a massive wave sweeping the entire landscape away. Photography as such is an honorable and respected profession and one which jude pursued as photographer for the Evening News, on assignment for Lake Superior Magazine and Sports Illustrated Kid’s Magazine, and as a photographer of weddings and other events, using the camera as a tool to capture a moment, expose a vista, an animal, or a natural condition, or to make a point. Now, however, jude uses the camera as a medium and a print as a canvas to create a work of art.

The best way to learn about jude McConkey and her work is by looking at the photographs on her web sites and reading the comments that come with them. When we started to reproduce some of them, we realized that print versions couldn’t do them justice, but if you are on the internet, just look at the subtlety of colors and form in “Winter in Mourning” (http://www.etsy.com/listing/70901513/winter-in-mourning-8x12-fine-art and below), for instance. A trip through jude’s web gallery will make you look at familiar surroundings in a wholly different way, and will illustrate the art of photography—not what is photographed or even how it is photographed but the awareness the photograph awakens in the viewer.

jude’s work is featured on:

Her comparatively new line of wearable art consists of photographs in pendants, necklaces, bookmarks, zipper/purse pulls, and cell phone charms. jude began making it a few years ago when a gallery owner in Rochester, Michigan told her that two-dimensional art was just not selling. She has since found that what is selling varies from month to month, but making the jewelry is fun for her and has been successful. She says she wants to keep the focus on her photography as opposed to the wearable art, because she’s a photographer first. The findings of the jewelry are so well chosen to frame and enhance the photograph, however, that the focus is right there. The wearable art also solves the dilemma of a shopper liking a photograph very much but not having the wall space to hang it and has the added advantage that something one puts on and wears becomes more intimately familiar than something on the wall.

After scrolling through her online gallery, we threw a series of questions at her. Because there were so many close focus photographs of Queen Anne’s lace, dandelion puffs, and other wild cover, often shrouded in early morning mist or taken on cloudy days, we asked, “How much are you willing to go through to get a photograph? The impression is that you spend a lot of time lying on your stomach in wet grass.” Her reply: “Funny story to prove you are right about your belief. Last summer I was coming home from an assignment right as the sun was setting. I could see all these dandelion puffballs all over the fields with the sunlight coming through them. It looked magical, so I kept trying to find a place to pull over before the sun set. I finally stopped and pulled over under the International Bridge. I lay on the ground to get close ups when suddenly I hear the crunching of tires on gravel. I looked up to see a police car pulling up next to me. I jumped up and they just shook their heads and drove off. Either they thought I was a terrorist or a drunk who decided to nap in dandelion puffs.”

We also noted that there seemed to be more winter photographs than summer ones and commented that it looked as if the colder the day and the more miserable the weather, the more likely she was to be out in it. jude’s comment: “I think the photos may be more memorable, because I think I probably have more summer/spring/fall ones. Capturing the snow as it falls is something I love and it helps me get through the winter. One day this past February I saw that it was not only way below zero but also that the sun was beginning to come up. I knew that it would make for steam rising from the power canal and set out to take tons of frosted photographs. I definitely look for weather conditions that may be adverse but will create beauty.”

Another winter story came in answer to the question, “What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to get a photo and how did the photo turn out?” Her reply: “I went out to take photos in a blizzard once instead of just going straight home (when I lived out of town). I took some photographs and one turned out to be my favorite (Winter Winds below), but the weather took a turn for the worse and I nearly had a panic attack because I could not see the sides of the road on I-75. I drove on sheer luck until I hit Six Mile and everything was clear and sunny”.

Our last question was, “What’s the down side of photography?” Her answer: “I haven’t found one yet.”

jude’s work can be found online at the web sites mentioned earlier, at Sault Realism, at the Village Lantern in Ionia and at Gallery U in Royal Oak. This summer you’ll find her at the Sault Summer Arts Festival August 2nd (she won the Photography Award there last year). She’ll be at the Frankfort Craft Fair June 18, Blissfest July 8 to 10, Art on the Rocks in Marquette July 30 and 31, and the Frankfort Art fair August 19 and 20. She has also applied to the Les Cheneaux Festival of the Arts, but replies for that aren’t out yet.

One last comment. jude wants to be know as jude with the small “j”, which poses a problem in an article where so many sentences begin with her name, so we erred on the side of caution and if it looks funny, talk to jude. She’s in the phone book.

Works by jude McConkey
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

Flowers by jude McConkey

Flowers by jude McConkey

Flowers by jude McConkey
Flowers by jude McConkey Flowers by jude McConkey

Flowers by jude McConkey

Flowers by jude McConkey

Field of Dreams Past by jude McConkey

Field of Dreams Past

Ship in a Snowstorm by jude McConkey

Ship in a Snowstorm

Perish by jude McConkey

Perish

Perish (wearable) by jude McConkey

Perish (wearable)

Sunset Fluff by jude McConkey

Sunset Fluff

Under the Bridge by jude McConkey

Under the Bridge

The Apple Orchard by jude McConkey

The Apple Orchard

The Apple Orchard (wearable) by jude McConkey

The Apple Orchard (wearable)

Winter Winds by jude McConkey

Winter Winds

Winter in Mourning by jude McConkey

Winter in Mourning

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e-mail: saac@saultarts.org Phone: (906) 635-1312