Beyond the lens: Explore infrared photography with Kathy Hornsby

Natalie Joseph
Contact Reporternjoseph@dailypress.com

Infrared photography allows humans to see light and colors in a way they normally would not see.

Instead, it gives off a dynamic range of colors, unfamiliar to the human eye, coaxing people to look twice and think about what they see.

Williamsburg photographer Kathy Hornsby, who mainly takes pictures using near infrared photography, is a bit like her work.

She's a talkative free spirit who loves to travel and is married to one of Virginia's most successful musicians, Bruce Hornsby.

But beyond her free spirit, you find something most people cannot see — a serious photographer you can find meticulously leveling each of her photographs in the Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center so they hang just right.

Kathy Hornsby's exhibit "Beyond Visible" showcases her interest in near infrared photography, on display at WCAC until Nov. 4.

Like the process of developing an infrared photograph, Hornsby's career did not appear how she originally intended it. For years, she put photography on hold to raise her family and help her husband launch his music career.

Hornsby attended the College of William and Mary, becoming a middle school English and history teacher after graduation.

In 1980, she moved to Los Angeles with her husband and returned to school, studying graphic design. She worked as a designer for many years, a career that she said enabled her to use her creativity.

Once Bruce Hornsby's career took off in 1986, Hornsby left her graphic design career and became her husband's business manager, a role she stayed in for 30 years.

When her family moved back Williamsburg, Hornsby was busy raising her twin sons, working for Bruce and staying involved in her community, serving on many local boards. She was also always taking photos, a hobby she said she has always loved from a young age.

"I was really engaged in the community and I loved that, but I realized I wasn't spending time doing anything creative, and I missed that," Hornsby said.

Eventually, in 1998, Hornsby came across a photo in the Richmond-Times Dispatch of a woman holding a paint brush while sitting in front of an easel. She said the picture changed everything for her.

"When I saw that picture I knew that is what I wanted to be doing. I was transfixed and added up when the kids would be old enough to drive on their own and when were my board commitments up. Then I tacked the picture up, and I put 'quit everything 2005' on it and kept looking at the photo to remind me of my goal," Hornsby said.

In 2005, she made it happen. Hornsby began what she calls her "very serious hobby" of photography and began traveling around the world taking photographs. Besides her family, photography became her main focus.

"I've always liked to travel, but I wasn't really able to travel until my 30s. Before I would just snap away, but once my kids got older, I started taking my photography more seriously," Hornsby said. "I paint, so I tend to be more visually oriented, and photography is a natural extension of that. It combines my love of curiosity for the rest of the world, composition and capturing moments."

Displaying photographs from her travels, Hornsby's work in the WCAC displays pictures from northern India, Namibia, Oregon, California, New Mexico and even her kitchen.

This year, she continued her travels by visiting the northern parts of Myanmar, where she joined a group of other photographers who capture disappearing ethnic minorities and customs in the region.

Many of Hornsby's pieces include people, an aspect of photography she says fascinates her the most.

During her travels, Hornsby uses her laid-back free spirit to hang out with the people she is photographing and learns about their culture. Many of her 31 photographs at the WCAC are environmental portraitures (photographs that highlight the subject's natural environment and says something about who they are) that reflect her attraction to humans.

"She's a very laid-back gal, and after talking to her, you can see why she is drawn to what she photographs. She's not shy and very interested in people. She gets to know people in all of her travels, and it comes across," said Apryl Altman, artistic director at WCAC.

According to Altman, Hornsby's exhibit is unique to the Williamsburg area because of its infrared focus.

A couple of years ago, Hornsby said she began exploring near-infrared photography as a creative option after liking how it changes what would be an average photograph into something more dramatic.

She uses two digital cameras altered to take in infrared light at a 50 percent pass rate, turning subjects such as a blue sky very dark and making green grass appear white.

"It's a different place on the visual spectrum. I liked it because there are some surprises and certain things show up and don't show up. It doesn't pick up color as we see it in the visual spectrum, and I like the way it gives a little dreamy, glowing, smooth look. It gives me a creative option," Hornsby said.

Altman discovered Hornsby's love for photography while the two were taking a painting class together. After a year and half of discussions, infrared became the main focus of the exhibit.

"We decided infrared would be the way to go for her exhibit because it is something new and different that really hasn't been shown in our area that can showcase her travels and this wonderful new way of photography. The idea of being able to see something that our eye doesn't usually see is intriguing to people," Altman said.

Joseph can be reached by phone 757-374-3134.

Want to go?

What:

Kathy Hornsby's "Beyond Visible."

When:

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 4.

Where:

Williamsburg Contemporary Art Center, 219 N. Boundary St., Williamsburg.

Cost:

Free.

Info:

Call 757-229-4949 or email info@visitwcac.org.

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