Art Maker: Bill Orr, photographer

  • Photographer Bill Orr of Florence displays some prints in his home workspace. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

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    Photographer Bill Orr of Florence is shown with his image "First Frost” in his home workspace. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • “Childs Park” Image courtesy of Bill Orr

  • “Childs Park” Image courtesy of Bill Orr

  • “The Line Stands Guard” Image courtesy of Bill Orr

  • “Snow Mound” Image courtesy of Bill Orr

  • “The Mystery Within” Image courtesy of Bill Orr

  • “Whence We Came” Image courtesy of Bill Orr

  • “Weeping” Image courtesy of Bill Orr

  • “Cascade Wall” Image courtesy of Bill Orr

Published: 1/26/2018 8:01:40 AM

Florence photographer Bill Orr says he’s a big fan of landscapes — particularly ones shrouded in fog and mist, where he finds a kind of ethereal beauty. “I am fascinated by the transformation of the landscape when shrouded in mist,” he says. “I try to capture the unusual beauty of these fluid, fleeting moments.”

He draws inspiration from a lot of places, including the work of two seminal U.S. photographers from the early and mid-20th century, Alfred Stieglitz and Eliot Porter.

Though Stieglitz compiled a body of diverse work, Orr notes, his rare landscape photos are “powerful and inspiring. They transform banal subjects into points for introspective contemplation,” while Porter made “some wonderful, subtly beautiful images.”

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Bill Orr: I am working with images I captured over the past two years along the waterways near my home. I like to shoot very early in the morning, particularly during foggy or misty weather. When the light and conditions look promising, I pack my gear and head out to places I scouted in hopes of finding that unique combination of natural graphic elements and lighting that will make a memorable picture.

H.L.: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

Orr: Sometimes I will happen on a scene so beautiful that I just gaze with wonder and have to prod myself to set up my equipment to take the photo. I guess these could be called “Eureka” moments — they are truly inspiring.

H.L.: How do you know when your work is finished?

Orr: Good question. Photography with artistic intentions often relies on some manipulation of the originally captured image. Technology makes it so easy to tweak what you see that there is a temptation to play with it endlessly. But lately I find that the image looks right when it evokes the memory and feeling I experienced when I was in the field with my camera.

H.L.: Have you ever had a “mistake” — a project that seemed to be going south — turn into a wonderful discovery instead?

Orr: I have tons of mistakes. But occasionally, I review old files and find an image that did not look right at the time that seems much more interesting now. I can work with it to make something I like.

H.L.: What’s the most recent exhibition/concert/book reading/other event by another artist or group that you’ve attended and enjoyed?

Orr: The Hosmer Gallery at Forbes Library recently exhibited photos by Donna Carpenter. Her stunning black and white images of Scottish landscapes were awe-inspiring. You could almost feel the texture.

H.L.: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d be?

Orr: I am just starting to think that artist is one of the things I am. Even at this stage of my life, there are new things I hope to do. Maybe a carpenter or welder?

H.L.: Dream dinner party: Who would you invite?

Orr: Edward Weston (photographer), Brian Eno (composer), Ali Smith (writer). Weston is no longer among the living, but since this is a dream, maybe it doesn’t matter.

— Steve Pfarrer

If you’d like to recommend someone for the Art Maker column, contact Steve Pfarrer at

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