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Snapshots of the World with Photographer Kathryn Mohrman

Burmese Spear Fishing by Kathryn Mohrman
Burmese Spear Fishing by Kathryn Mohrman

The Art League asked Kathryn Mohrman, winner of Best in Show in our July Open Exhibit, some questions about her award winning photograph, her work, and her future travels.

What was your goal with this piece?

“I wanted to capture the skill and strength of the fisherman; you can see the muscles in his back and legs. I was also attracted by the unusual fishing method—I’d never seen anything like spearfishing before! Technically, I wanted to catch him in mid-air, so I set my camera on continuous shooting and pressed the shutter just as he took off from the boat. This image was the third or fourth in that series.”

Photograph by Kathryn Mohrman (used with permission)

What’s your creative process like, from an idea to a finished piece?

“At the big-picture level, I am interested in societies that are in transition from traditional to modern. These people respect the culture in which they were raised, but they also want the benefits of globalization. (For example, I assume that this fisherman uses a net to catch the fish that he sells for money).

Many of my photos are taken on trips to other countries so I am always looking for interesting people/situations/scenes, particularly when the light is good. Serendipity plays a huge role in my creative process—I need to be open to the moment.”

What story do you hope to tell through your photography?

“While my subjects are often seen as ‘exotic’ by viewers, I am also trying to convey our common humanity. We all seek happiness, love our families, create beauty (whether in wood carving or weaving or ceremonial masks or our homes), although we might do it in different ways. Right now we tend to focus too much on ‘otherness’ when in fact we have so much in common.”

Photograph by Kathryn Mohrman (used with permission)

Why are you a photographer? Does your previous career [in education] inform the work that you do now?

“I enjoy photography because it uses both left and right sides of my brain. I’m not a techie person although I’ve learned a great deal about the mechanics of my camera and the options in post-processing my images in the computer. But it’s the aesthetic and human aspects of the resulting images that are most important to me. And yes, there is a connection with my career in education. Most people will not have the chances I have had to travel to Kenya or Burma/Myanmar, so I can open their eyes to a wider world and foster an appreciation of other cultures.”

Your website showcases your travels and the photos you take while you’re on trips, how do you decide where to go next?

“Sometimes I have a fascination about a part of the world so I look for ways to get there. But sometimes an opportunity arises to go to somewhere that wasn’t on my Top 10 list. As long as people aren’t shooting at each other, I’m game to go! For example, I’m quite interested in Central Asia as a crossroads of East and West. I hope I’ll have a chance to see places like Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan in the future. And, I’ve never been to Greece; I need to experience the cradle of Western civilization.”

Photograph by Kathryn Mohrman (used with permission)

What are you working on now?

“In a few days I will be on my way to meet a group of photographers in Papua New Guinea; the highlight of the trip will be the Mt. Hagen sing-sing, a cultural festival where different groups compete with traditional singing and dancing. It should provide some great photo opportunities! (It may also be one of the most challenging places I’ve ever visited)

More generally, I am looking for ways to share my work with a wider audience, whether through The Art League or other venues. I’m always interested in exhibit opportunities, especially in the DMV area. I have several solo shows in the coming months, so I’ll need to prepare.”

Be sure to check out Kathryn’s photograph and the rest of the July Open Exhibit, open through August 5 in The Art League Gallery.

Kathryn Mohrman

About the Artist

Kathryn Mohrman recently retired from a career in education―from teaching sixth-grade students to PhD candidates, as well as serving in various administrative capacities. On different campuses she has taught social studies and public policy; in China and Hong Kong she taught American Studies and English language. Now in retirement she devotes her attention to photographs that demonstrate cultural differences and human universalities. Recent travels have taken her from Maine to California, Thailand to Cuba, China to Kenya. She has lived in the Washington, DC, area for more than 20 years, longer than any other place in her life.

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