Photographer TK Thompson. Courtesy Photo
By Mandy Marksteiner
“I like jazz,” said TK Thompson, a photographer who will be showing his work in the Springtime Art Show at Karen Wray Fine Art Gallery April 20 to June 1. “Jazz musicians are free spirits. They’re letting it all hang out. They take risks. I’ve played music all my life. I know what it feels like to be in the groove. It’s magical. When you’re expressing emotions with your music, you can feel it in your gut. That’s why I do art and music.”
Thompson admits that it’s hard to “let it flow,” because, as responsible adults, we’re trained to suppress all the emotions that make art worthwhile. He has several ways of getting around his own inhibitions.
“Before I get started, I clear myself emotionally by bending over and reaching the top of my head and letting all the crap dump out of my head that’s in my conscious mind,” he said. “That will allow me to tap into my subconscious creativity.”
The opening reception for the Springtime Art Show at Karen Wray Fine Art Gallery is 5–7 p.m. Friday, April 20.
The public is invited to welcome Thompson and other new artists: Kathleen Veenstra, Dominique Samyn-Werbrouck, Marc Hudson, Eric Ringquist and Kimber Wallwork-Heineman.
Like jazz musicians who can “let it all hang out,” Thompson strives to create photos with an emotional drive.
One of the ways that he does that is to record his emotional hook at the time that he takes the exposure.
“I like to take a voice recorder and record my voice and how I was feeling when I took the picture,” he said. “It makes it easier to capture my emotional state when I print. I can interpret my feelings.”
If he doesn’t have an emotional hook, he can recreate one by playing music in the dark room or, as the case has been since he switched to digital photography, when he edits his images on the computer.
Most of Thompson’s old work is in black and white; Los Alamos National Bank has some of his large black and white prints.
He first learned to use a digital camera so he could take pictures for The Monitor. He currently takes photos for The Los Alamos Daily Post.
When he bought his Nikon digital camera he was amazed by how stable the images are, even when they’re blown up. He blew up a photo of Abiquiu Lake 3’ x 5’ just to find out how far you can push digital print imagery with extreme enlargements. Pretty far, apparently: he spread the enlarged photo on the roof of my car and pointed out the individual trees on Pedernal, 7.7 miles from where he took the photo (he measured the distance on Google Earth). He radiated joy from this simple discovery.
“I’m doing what I want to do instead of what I have to do,” said Thompson, who has always been interested in photography.
He worked as a chemical engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory for three years and then as consultant for 25 years.
He is thrilled to be able to seek out scenes that inspire him in a positive way and capture them with his camera.
Recent subjects that he found especially exciting were children enjoying a performance of Peter and the Wolf, young women slamming into each other at a roller derby scrimmage, and Jan MacDonald’s jazz combo.
The jazz photos will be part of a photographic show in the Portal Gallery at Fuller Lodge Art Center next June called “Faces of Jazz.”
He has known Karen Wray since they both served on the board at Fuller Lodge Art Center.
“We’ve both overcome physical problems in order to make our art,” Thompson said. “I feel privileged that Karen said that she wanted to show my work.”
Thompson is half colorblind, and has been known to wear two different colored socks.
He overcomes this using an X-Rite Colorchecker Passport, which corrects images on the computer in terms of color.
“It has enabled me to print in color without having to rely on my own color values. I’m doing color, but I haven’t given up on black and white,” he said. “I’ve been redoing a lot of my black and white imagery now that I realize I can do better with digital. I’m going through an artistic renaissance … but I’m also going through a lot of printing paper!”
See what Thompson’s been printing at the Springtime Art Show, which runs from April 20 to June 1.
“TK’s work is very professional and celebrates our spectacular local environment, something that is central to the mission of my gallery,” Wray said. “Los Alamos is an extraordinarily beautiful place with a unique historical beginning and we are very fortunate to call it ‘home.’”
Karen Wray Fine Art Gallery at 2101 Trinity Dr., Suite B, is open 12–4 p.m. Monday–Friday and 12–3 p.m. Saturday. Call 660-6382 for details.