Photographer C.J. Groth said she “threw caution to the wind” when she left Illinois to experience Key West for a year. That was 1990 and Groth is still experiencing the island life and has added award winning photographer credits to her expertise while here.
Groth’s first taste of photography came while earning her degrees in journalism and media communications at Iowa State (bachelor’s) and the University of Illinois (master’s).
“After college I had a good job with a large corporation,” Groth said from the second floor of the Guild Hall Gallery where her photographs are on display. “It wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what would be more interesting than what I was doing, but on a whim, I ended up in Key West. I came for a year.” She laughed. “I guess most of us come for a weekend or year and forget to go back.”
Anyone that has passed through Key West International Airport has seen Groth’s photos displayed as part of the Art in Public Places project.
Groth’s photography goes back to when darkrooms weren’t computers, but rooms with a small red light and trays of chemicals for processing film and eventually developing prints. In those times film, photo paper and light, didn’t mix.
“I did it all back then,” she said. “And I hand painted many of my black-and-white prints.”
Groth used specialty oils and pencils to color her prints and continues the work on some of her digital prints.
Groth welcomed the age of digital photography.
“I love working at the computer,” she said. “I work in comfort and there’s light in the room so I can see.”
Digital hasn’t affected the quality of Groth’s prints. Each print is done on archival paper, using a professional Epson printer. If she thinks a print will look good very large, she has it printed on canvas.
Instead of using dodging and burning tools from the darkroom, today Groth depends on computer programs like PhotoShop for achieving the look she wants in her photos. She said the results of dodging – cutting back exposure – and burning – over exposing sections of a photo – are still needed but easier when done on the computer.
“Any enhancement adds excitement to a photo,” she said. “Sometimes I soften a photo and it becomes better and I’ve taken it to another level.”
Groth goes nowhere without a camera. The smaller, more compact digital format allows her to carry a camera in her purse and she’s ready to shoot anywhere, anytime. She doesn’t miss the camera bag full of equipment.
“I have to feel there’s something there,” she said of how she chooses to photograph one scene and not another. “Sometimes it’s the way light falls on the subject. I take the photo because it says something to me; I don’t consider whether or not it will sell.”
Groth went digital in 2003 as she prepared for a trip to Cuba. Today, the photos she took on that trip make up a part of her collection of almost 300 photos she calls the Cuba Series.
Her other series, Key West and the Florida Keys, are a combination of hand-colored and digital enhanced photos from around the Keys.
Another grouping of Groth’s photos, the Fantasy Series, uses a montage of original photos to create an entirely new image.
Her photos at the Guild Hall Gallery, 614 Duval St., also includes her panoramas.
“This year my project is ‘minimalism,’” she said. “I want to reduce the photo to its basic elements but still leave it recognizable. I get a kick out of doing this. It’s a new challenge.”
To see examples of her work, go to www.cjgroth.com.