Saranac Lake, through a new lens

Local photographer’s work featured at BluSeed

Saranac Lake photographer Skip Murray’s collection of snapshots of the village, taken with his distinctive point-of-view, are on display at BluSeed Studio through the next two months. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Inside BluSeed Studios, there are pictures of familiar landmarks around Saranac Lake — the Dorsey Street bridge over the Saranac River, the Harrietstown Town Hall, shops on Broadway. You’ve seen these before, but never through Skip Murray’s lens.

Murray’s exhibit, “Village Views,” opened for a two-month run on Saturday. It presents his vision of Saranac Lake, told through cropping, time of day, unique angles and the weather.

If Murray is walking around town, you can bet he’s got his camera with him. The quote on his website says, “I always have my camera on me, just in case.”

There was one time, while he was sitting on a back porch, a group of deer came walking down the road like they owned it. He didn’t have his camera on him.

“That was the last time I didn’t have my camera with me,” Murray said.

He’s been taking photos since the early 1970s, following a desire to capture the interesting things he sees. He shot on film, of course, and moved to digital photography in 2008 before a trip to Paris. He’s glad he did; he took hundreds of photos there.

Murray’s brought his camera around the world, but he said he never gets tired of shooting Saranac Lake.

“This is just a phenomenal place to take pictures,” he said. “This is the most enchanting place I’ve ever lived.”

He grew up in Boston and has been visiting Saranac Lake ever since he met his wife Felista in 1992. At some point, he said, “You know what? I don’t want to leave anymore.”

Inspiration for a photo can strike or percolate for a while.

A vision of the Saranac Lake skyline sandwiched between Lake Flower and a wispy azure sky struck him suddenly as he drove by on Lake Flower Avenue, requiring a quick departure from the road. Another, of the Rock Shop on Broadway with snow lazily floating around the crosswalk, was dreamed up days before as he was checking the weather forecast.

When Murray finds a shot, he walks around to find the right angle and framing. There’s no rules to it. He just feels it out.

“I don’t think because thinking gets in the way,” Murray said.

He said two of his biggest artistic influences are singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie and the novelist Henry Miller. Their work was with words and his is with images, but Murray said the attitude they brought to creating art has been inspiring.

“They were just fooling around with words,” he said. “Well, I can fool around with pictures, too.”

On the visual front, Murray said he sometimes likes to incorporate the French impressionist painter Edgar Degas’ breaking of conventions in his images — not every subject needs to be centered, visually clear or even fully in frame.

A photo of bike racks in front of Human Power Planet Earth on Broadway is a disorienting jumble of lines and circles — similar to an abstract painting dealing in shapes rather than a subject. Murray said it was the image of repeating circles that drew him to the image, but he said it took him a long time to capture it as he saw it.

Murray is a calm and observant photographer, patiently waiting for his shot.

His landscapes have striking lines of sight, creating a lattice of horizontal treelines, vertical icicles and diagonal docks cutting through the images.

When he shoots in black and white, he pulls out a stark contrast — bright white sunlight and dark black shadows. When he shoots in color he finds magical hues.

There are small details in some of his images to pick out, like a group of people in lawn chairs on the roof of a downtown building watching Soma Beats bounce down Broadway in the 2020 Winter Carnival parade, or tiny silhouettes of figures standing before a massive wall of light — fireworks at the end of the 2022 Carnival.

Murray had a showing of his photos in Boston before, but this is only his second in Saranac Lake. A collection of his photos dotted the walls of Nori’s Village Market this winter and more of his work can be seen at the ADK ArtRise and Cape Air offices.

The exhibit in the first floor gallery will run until July 7. Gallery hours are 2 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.


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