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Light, shadow, angles, curves

“Light Enchantment 3” by Catherine Roberts Leach. (Courtesy of the artist)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The images echo a slice of Arctic tundra or a promontory jutting from a mesa.

Many photographers take their artistic practice well beyond the studio. For fine art photographer Catherine Roberts Leach, the pandemic instilled a set of restrictions confining her to her Eldorado home.

Her photographer’s eye focused on light and shadow, angles and curves. She noticed how light crept across an exterior wall in her garden and the sky reflected in her birdbath. These subtleties transformed into two series: “Close to Home” and “Light Enchantment,” available online at crleach.com.

This minimalist focus on mood and mystery is nothing new to Leach, who moved to Santa Fe from Los Angeles in 2017.

“I can spend 10 minutes trying to find the right angle,” the photographer said. “I just look and look.”

She walked out to feed the birds one morning and noticed the colors, the patterns and the shapes within her frozen granite birdbath. “Birdbath Water 3” is a reflection of her home’s overhang.

“It’s painted orange and it has a water spout,” she said, “that looks different, depending on the color of the sky. I took it at bird’s-eye level with the wall in back.”

Leach has looked for angles and architecture since she lived in Los Angeles. Those 40 years likely contributed to her ability to see tight quarters through her creative vision.

“I was able to continue to photograph while being a shut-in,” she explained.

In California, she worked in publicity for Kaiser Permanente. She never took a photography class, but had carried a camera to document the beauty she had found since she was a teenager growing up in Manhattan. She had always longed for space.

“When I was in New York, the canyons were dark,” she said. “I spent all my time in Central Park. The skies here, the light, everything changes and it’s open. This is the sprawl of nature and it’s what I’ve always related to. I would always see things. I would see interesting light; I would see angles.”

Other series capture people on the streets and at the airport, as well as twisted glass images shot through her privacy windows.

Shattered shards of ice could be broken glass; the shadow on a wall could be a mountain.

Leach says she never plans what she photographs or continues as a series, although she admires photographers who work that way. She never manipulates the images.

“It’s the way my brain works; it’s just an instinct,” she said.

Her focus is on capturing patterns and shapes the rest of us might miss.

“It’s an inspiration that hits in the moment,” she said, “it’s nothing planned. For me, it’s just visual. I don’t plan anything.”

Leach earned a degree in English literature and subsequently co-published an award-winning, nationally distributed journal. Writing, however, was not her true calling. She has hung solo and group exhibitions in galleries across the United States, from New York to Oregon. She has exhibited at the Los Angeles International Airport and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Art Rental and Sales Gallery.

At the request of Yoko Ono, one of Leach’s photographs was published on the cover page of her website imaginepeace.com.

The photographer longs to explore New Mexico through her lens when restrictions open.

“I haven’t seen so much of this state; I’m really dying to see it.”

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