Visual Arts

Photographer Nori Hall makes her pictures match her vision

Macklin Dam is included in Waterscapes, a photo exhibit by Nori Hall. She takes a black and white image, then scans it and adjusts it digitally.
Macklin Dam is included in Waterscapes, a photo exhibit by Nori Hall. She takes a black and white image, then scans it and adjusts it digitally. Courtesy of Ann Tower Gallery

Photographers are notorious for doing whatever it takes to get the perfect shot. Nori Hall is no different.

She has scaled bridges and traipsed Kentucky's back roads to capture the magic of regional waterways, from rivers to waterfalls to solitary ponds in a field under the stars. They are all subjects of her latest photographic exhibition, Waterscapes, at Ann Tower Gallery through June 9.

Sometimes Hall took advantage of her immediate surroundings, like when she was on an artists' retreat in Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. Friends and acquaintances also would suggest waterways to explore.

Other times, she consulted a map and embarked on an adventure.

"I went exploring, and sometimes I would fall upon a wonderful bridge or overlook," Hall says. "Sometimes you find nothing, but sometimes you would find a picture.

"It's tricky, because you can't just jump into the middle of the river and take a picture. You have to find a spot with a good view."

Searching for the perfect vantage point often led Hall to explore places where she wouldn't have ventured otherwise, like the new bridge parallel to the old Tyrone railroad span that dates the late 1880s.

The resulting photograph, Tyrone Bridge, is one of 15 works in Waterscapes, funded by an EcoArt Grant from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government department of environmental quality.

The EcoArt Grant, Hall's second in two years, funded her vision of artistically engaging local places where water is a resource and refuge, a source of health and overall welfare.

"I could not have done either of those projects without an EcoArt Grant," she says. "It put pressure on me to make a commitment to a certain theme and quantity of work, which had to be of a high aesthetic quality."

On first glance, Hall's photographs could be mistaken for paintings or etchings. Her process of combining old and new technology creates photographs that are at once dreamlike and precise.

"I have been interested in creating photographs that have a dreamy, sometimes dark and always mysterious mood," Hall writes in her artist statement. "My images do not portray what I see through the lens of my camera. I achieve a personal kind of impression, rather than an explicit depiction, typically first by the compositions I choose, and ultimately by suppressing detail and using blended, subtle and somewhat unrealistic color."

To achieve her artistic vision, Hall begins with a Hasselblad medium-format camera and black-and-white, slow, fine-grain film, which she develops in a dark room. She then uses a scanner and digital software to add color, texture and her interpretation of the work.

"I darken things, I lighten things, I add color, sharpen and blur," says Hall, who also does her own printing.

"I make prints, and then print and print again until I get something that seems complete to me," she says.

Hall says aesthetic enjoyment for the viewer is one of her primary aims as a photographer.

"While I have found in photography a great outlet, a refuge from the demands of daily life, and a mysterious, magical arena where I can play, the basic purpose of what I do as a photographer is to offer myself and viewers of my work pure aesthetic pleasure," she writes in her statement. "I am interested in creating sensitive arrangements of form, color and texture that are beautiful.

"In that respect, my work is decidedly romantic, though not without contemporary relevance."


Nori Hall: 'Waterscapes'

When: Through June 9. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun.

Where: Ann Tower Gallery, 141 E. Main St.

Learn more: (859) 425-1188,