Chuck Murphy is a nature photographer specializing in birds, bugs and blooms. His award-winning photos have been featured in Popular Photography and Outdoor Photographer magazines, as well as a number of other publications. He teaches photography courses for UGA-Continuing Education, The State Botanical Garden, OLLI@UGA and other venues. He’s also given lectures on nature photography at several photography clubs around Georgia. You can find Chuck at boywithcamera.com.
Athens Art Prints: How do you describe your aesthetic?
Chuck Murphy: As far as what I want in a photo, I try to have strong, simple, uncluttered compositions. I want to produce attractive images that people enjoy looking at, and want to look at more than once.
In practice, that typically means shooting 100 to 500 images for each one that I end up showing. More and more these days, I visualize the image that I want and then spend a week or a month working out how to get the bird or bug to pose the way I want in the photo. Unlike human models, you can’t just say, “Please lift your head a bit, turn a little to the left and then smile!”
Beyond all that, what really makes an image a success for me is what I call the “Second Look” factor. If somebody just glances at a bunch of photos and says, “Oh, a flower, oh, a bird . . .” and then flips the page, then that’s a failure. But if they start to flip to the next image and then say, “Oh, wait!” then that’s a success. For a sample of a dozen shots that I feel meet these criteria, see http://boywithcamera.com/justbirds .
AAP: What motifs, characters or objects are important to you to feature? (Tell me why you like focusing on birds!)
CM: I’ve been both a photographer and a bird watcher for over five decades. When I retired and had the time and wherewithal to get more serious about photography, it was a natural transition for me to strive to make better bird photos. I have zero interest and skill for portraiture, street photography, landscapes, etc., but I’ve always been fascinated with “birds, bugs, and blooms.” It’s a field that rewards planning, patience, and most of all, persistence, and those are skills that I have in some measure.
AAP: What inspires your work?
CM: I recently had a one-man show at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia here in Athens. I titled the show “Nature, Illustrated” because that’s my goal: A camera has the ability to freeze an instant in time and reveal details that the human eye typically misses. Therefore, I feel that a successful photo helps us appreciate the intricate beauty of nature in a unique way. If I achieve that, then it makes the whole thing worthwhile.
AAP: What is it like to be part of the creative community in Athens?
CM: I love it! About eight years ago, I founded the “Picture This” photo club for OLLI@UGA (the “Learning in Retirement” group associated with UGA). Then a few years later, I joined Athens Photography Guild, the largest photo club in town and have served as Program Chair for the last two years. I also hit as many galleries and local exhibitions as possible. What’s great about all this networking is that at these clubs and events, I keep bumping into old friends and through them, making new ones. We are a true community; many of us can instantly recognize each other’s work, and the whole community provides a friendly, city-wide support group.
AAP: What first prompted you to get prints of your work?
CM: For me, this is relatively new! I spent my entire career in the computer business and started working with digital images back in 1992. Up until recently, I mostly displayed and shared digital images. However, a couple of years ago I started entering juried competitions and shows, and that drove the need for high quality prints. That opened up a whole new world for me, and I like it! I do not do any of my own printing — it’s a very specialized area, and I’d rather spend my time shooting and editing photos. Now that Pixel & Ink is open for business, I’m delighted that I can just turn the task of getting good prints over to them and know that whatever I get back is going to exceed my expectations.