Andrea Fisher has seen the classic Kentucky photographs: images of green hills lined with white fences, where majestic Thoroughbreds roam; mountains in gentle pastels in spring and ablaze with color in the fall.
"Kentucky does have this mystique," Fisher says. "Even though I have lived here 10 years, I still have this romantic idea of what Kentucky is."
As director of the Morlan Gallery at Transylvania University, Fisher wanted to put together a photography exhibition that showed some other sides of the Bluegrass State and looked beyond its iconic images.
MYKY: Life Through the Lens gathers the work of five Kentucky photographers who cast their eyes on a variety of subjects — tobacco, mountaintop-removal mining, rural life, women in the Bluegrass's growing Latin-American community.
"I think all of the photographers in this exhibit succeeded in showing something beyond pretty pictures," said Angela Baldridge, a Transylvania graduate and a participant in the show. "Although the prints were often beautiful, the subject matter often contrasted our typical concept of Kentucky beauty and forced us to consider how our decisions and lifestyles define and affect scenic Kentucky."
Baldridge, a free-lance photographer who contributes to the Herald-Leader, was invited by Fisher to create pieces for MYKY.
She focused on tobacco, creating one set of nine images of tobacco leaves, from the fields to the barn, and another set of nine images of cigarette production.
Baldridge said she did a lot of research and drew on the writings of iconic Kentucky writer Wendell Berry and on her childhood memories of growing up near Covington.
"I realized that the most interesting facet of tobacco that I'd found was in the dichotomy that existed between the old and new," said Baldridge, who will give a gallery talk Feb. 10. "It tied everything together, images and the information I'd learned. So I began editing to show the relationship between the changing industry and the tradition tobacco maintains in Kentucky."
Lexington photographer Don Ament's offerings also show contrast between detailed mountaintop-removal images, for which he is well known, and recent impressionistic images of water and sky. In the center of them is a mammoth print of a power-line tower at Cooper Drive and Nicholasville Road that draws the two sides of his exhibits together.
"When you ask people to create works for an exhibit, you're always a little nervous about what you'll get," Fisher says.
In the case of MYKY, she says, she was pleasantly surprised, particularly by Carla Winn's portraits of Latina women.
Previous works by Winn, she said, captured a lot of background detail, but the new portraits are all about women and light.
They stand in contrast to work by Mary Tortorici, detailed images of rural environments, and Frank Döring's shots of the now-closed 1950s-era Henderson Municipal Power and Light Plant. Döring also takes viewers behind the scenes at an equine hospital in Woodford County with a series of graphic black-and-white images.
"It really peels back the curtain on something that is such a big part of Kentucky," Fisher says. "We are used to seeing these beautiful animals. Here's how we care for them."
Altogether, Fisher says, MYKY fulfills her ambition to show a variety of views of Kentucky.
"I wish I had a gallery three times this size," Fisher says, "because there's so much more that I'd like to show."
Reach Rich Copley at (859) 231-3217 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3217.