Introducing Ursy Potter of the McLean Photo Club

Ursy Potter’s photographic style mixes texture, contrast and color in strong measure. “I’m really looking for the third dimension to bring out the sense of the photograph.”

When I sat down recently with Ursy Potter at Greenberry’s to interview her for this post, the first thing she said was, “I find it very interesting that you are taking your photographic interests beyond the photograph.”

Well, when I played back the interview tape later, I thought Ursy’s opening comment told me something about Ursy.  Lately Ursy’s purpose in photography has moved beyond mere observation.  She is engaged by her subjects.

I’d better back up.  The first thing anyone will tell you about Ursy Potter is that she was a potter.  It’s true.  She made pottery and ceramics in her Great Falls home for thirty-five years.  Every six months she held a show there, so that her latest work could be sold, and to make room for more.  “No two things were the same,” she says.

If you have been to her home, perhaps for her semi-annual get-together of McLean Photo Club members, you would have noticed another unique interest, one that she shares with her husband, Carter: They are skilled kayakers.  They are also world travelers.  Ursy is a seeker of challenges.

Ursy, like me and many others who are digitally- born-again photographers, used a darkroom long ago and had to abandon it; darkrooms were and are messy, time-consuming and expensive.  So, ten years ago, Ursy got a digital single lens reflex camera and a computer.  After first using the new digital tools to make images of her pottery, Ursy eventually switched her creative focus back to photography. 

Photography allowed her to engage with people more than pottery did.  “Going from a professional to a rank amateur was totally what I needed….What I found myself carried to was the human comedy.” 

Ursy’s photographic style mixes texture, contrast and color in strong measure.  “I’m really looking for the third dimension to bring out the sense of the photograph.”  Ursy credits her dad, a landscape architect, for teaching her how to visualize the combination of foreground, medium view, and background views into a balanced and compelling whole.

A year ago, Ursy spent a month teaching pottery in a Ghanaian village of two hundred people.  Many of the residents are skilled weavers.  As she helped teach them pottery, she warmed to her hosts, and likewise.  “You can’t just take a photograph.  You have to get to know them and have their permission.”

She got to know them, and she got some compelling pictures.  And the visit gave Ursy a new purpose for her photography.  She hopes to organize a show of her Ghanaian photos that will raise money to build a well for the village.

When Ursy was a potter, her purpose was to create unique things, and to keep doing so.  When Ursy went into photography, she thought, “This is great, but what do I do with it?”  It may be that her visit to Ghana was the next step on the path to that new purpose.

* * *

This is the third in a series of interviews with McLean Photo Club members.  Bill Prosser and Tom Mangan sat for earlier interviews.  Coming up in the weeks ahead:  Margaret Huddy and David Stossel.

* * *

Seven members of the McLean Photo Club had a total of twenty-two images juried into the Nature Visions Photo Expo.  That annual nature photography event, which is organized by McLean and five other Northern Virginia clubs, takes place November 9, 10 & 11 at the Hylton Center for the Performing Arts in Manassas. 

Congratulations to Susanna Andersson, Bill Corbett, Minnie Gallman, Ursy Potter, Bill Prosser, David Stossel and Sue Teunis.  A selection of some of their winning images is on McLean Patch here.

Susanna Andersson and Sue Teunis each had one image unanimously selected by the Expo’s three judges.  Those images will be candidates for the Peoples’ Choice Award at the Expo, and the images will be included in a traveling exhibit of Nature Visions’ best images next year.  Congratulations again to Susan and Sue.

Just over 750 images were entered from six partnering Northern Virginia clubs, of which 273 were selected for the Expo's exhibit.

The Expo begins on Friday November 9, when Seth Resnick, named one of the decade's  thirty most influential photographers by PDN magazine, will offer a full day workshop at the Hylton Center on "Seeing Color: Creating Dynamic Killer Images."   On Saturday and Sunday November 10-11 Expo visitors can see the gallery of juried images and visit with over thirty local and national vendors of photography equipment, supplies, software, education and travel.  Seven more photography lectures and ten workshops are available on those days at an additional cost.

Canon Explorer of Light Darrel Guilin will give a free 2 hour presentation on backyard photography on Sunday at 4:30 pm.   Prior to Sunday afternoon, a daily admission for Saturday November 10 or Sunday morning is $10.  Full details and prices are at naturevisions.org.


Penn Camera at Tysons Corner is exhibiting twenty-plus photos in October-November by McLean Photo Club members.  The MPC members whose pictures are featured are Bruce Copping, Bill Corbett, Minnie Gallman, Tom Mangan, Ursy Potter, Bill Prosser and Paul Weiner.  A slideshow of some of the photos is on McLean Patch here.

Thanks to Andrew Shippin and his colleagues at Penn for putting out the welcome mat for the McLean Photo Club.

* * *

The McLean Photo Club is in its fourth decade -- and we welcome new members. 

MPC's next meeting will be Wednesday November 14 at 7:30 pm in the McLean Community Center.  

The November meeting will be a quarterly competition, for any type of photograph, with no limitations on subject matter or photographic technique or equipment.  Members must pay their annual dues of $25 in order to compete; new members who pay at the meeting may compete as well.  Guests are welcome at this and every meeting without payment of dues.

We compete in three broad categories.  Two are for printed images, which are judged in separate color and monochrome categories.  Within the color and monochrome categories prize ribbons are awarded separately for advanced and novice photographers.  The third and final category is digital images, in which color and monochrome images compete together.  Again, there are separate prize ribbons in the digital competition for advanced and novice photographers. 

All the rules for the competition and for submitting prints or digital images are online at http://www.mcleanphoto.org/competition.html.


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