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Instead of taking "pretty pictures," he thinks about how Big Bend makes him feel: "It's hot. Cactus hurts. There are snakes, insects, death," he said. "It's not pretty stuff."
Ashmore captures nature's 'reality' in photographs BY JAMIE REID Contributing Writer Special to The Orange County News An Ashmore landscape scene. Scientist Richard Ashmore stands in an empty Lamar University classroom and studies about 20 framed blackand white nature photographs. Some are blurry, some are at strange angles and some have a hint of foliage, all shot at Big Bend National Park. A few months ago, Ashmore, a 34-year-old adjunct geology professor at Lamar, would not have had the creative eye to take these pictures, he said. Ashmore, who teaches in Beaumont when he is not a doctoral student at Texas Tech in Lubbock, began snapping photos of landscapes as a Lamar undergraduate student in 1994. In those days (and for many years after), Ashmore focused on taking "accurate" photos of plants and geologic formations that could be used as illustrations during his lectures, rather than his current moodbased work. "To produce a technically accurate photograph was and is very challenging and was, at the time, my definition of photographic success," said Ashmore, a native of Orange who graduated from Little Cypress- Mauriceville in 1991. Then, in April, as a member of the Texas Tech Photo Club, Ashmore was able to display some of his work in a Lubbock gallery. From listening to Dawn Wolf, coordinator of education programs and exhibits at Lubbock's Underwood Center; and other artists, Ashmore has learned to explore emotions in his work. Instead of taking "pretty pictures," he thinks about how Big Bend makes him feel: "It's hot. Cactus hurts. There are snakes, insects, death," he said. "It's not pretty stuff." A picture of agaves, named "Daggers," is an out-of-focus portrait of numerous leaves all pointing in different directions. Another picture, "Doppelganger," shows a weed on the right side in focus, while a similar weed on the left is blurry. This portrays two sides of one self (the meaning of the German word doppelganger), Ashmore said. "It took a lot for me to let go of the technical artist in me," he said. These works give Ashmore a way to show the complexities of the world and also himself. "I want to look at things that are real," he said. Ashmore would like to become a professional photographer who is represented by several galleries. So far, he has works hanging at The Spirit of the West Gallery at Apache Trading Post in Alpine. Yet, if that doesn't work out, he's trained in geology (undergraduate and master's degree) and biology (pursuing a Ph.D). "I can do not one thing, but three or four things," Ashmore said. "I don't feel pigeon-holed into one field. And I have job security."
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