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Dale Graham: The Artist as Photographer

The work of well-known Fayette photographer Dale Graham was featured in a six-week exhibition in June and July at the Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American Art at Central Methodist College in Fayette.

Titled "Dale Graham: The Artist as Photographer," the exhibition features 55 black and white photographs by Graham. Ranging in size from 3 by 9 inches to 16 by 20 inches, the photographs were primarily landscape scenes in Missouri and the mountain states of the West.

"My approach to photography is pure and straightforward," Graham said. "My most serious work is with landscape and nature, in black and white." A native of Nebraska, Graham has been interested in photography since he was a teenager, but it was an avocational interest until he retired three years ago. He earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Nebraska in 1952 and owned and operated a drugstore in Fayette from 1963 until 1996.

"I am primarily self-taught," Graham said. He attended workshops conducted by noted photographer Oliver Schuchard of the University of Missouri-Columbia and the late Ansel Adams, at his Yosemite Workshops program in Yosemite National Park, Calif. Graham said he enjoys darkroom work and believes that that darkroom has more to do with good a photograph than the camera, but that both elements are important to producing a fine print.

Also included in the exhibition were six photographs that Graham has mounted in a rounded format to give them a special effect. Graham decided to experiment with the circle format after reading a quotation from "Black Elks Speaks" by John G. Neihardt.

"Black Elk explains what the power of the circle means to him and his people – the circle is the power of the world," Graham said. "I was moved by this passage and my thoughts went to my work as a photographer and the method of how we present our work, which is generally in a rectangular or square format.

"The round image has a pleasing effect," Graham added. "The subject matter is still in the photograph; however, there are no sharp corners in the viewable area, only the smooth round edge of the circle, with no beginning and no ending. I decided that Black Elk was correct in his belief that there is power in the circle, and the circle is power in the eye of the viewer."

During the past 20 years, Graham’s work has been exhibited in a number of galleries and shows throughout the Midwest. His photograph "Windmill On The Prairie" was selected for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The Sheldon Gallery of Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has placed three of his photographs in its permanent collection, and his photograph "Red Cloud Buttes and Clouds" was added to the permanent collection of the Nebraska Gallery of Art in Kearney.

Photographs by Graham were used in the book "Missouri Conservation Melodies," published by the Missouri Department of Conservation. His photographs were also reproduced for photomurals at the Burr Oaks Conservation Center in Blue Springs and the Visitors’ Center of the Swan Lake National Refuge in Sumner.