Honing a Hobby; Amateur Photographer Gains Growing Acclaim

Charlene Rieger-Velli has practiced photography as a personal hobby nearly her entire life. Her friends and family eventually coaxed her into deepening her participation and sharing her work – entering contests and exhibiting at events.

A second-place award at the National Arts Program® Exhibit and Contest for Union County Employees and Their Families secured her first chance for showing her work publicly. 

“I have always had a camera in my hands,” said Rieger-Velli. “I received my first camera at age 10, and have been a photo hobbyist ever since – over 30 years. I spent most of that time taking pictures for my own enjoyment and never anticipated doing any more than just that.”

“Flora, Fauna and Faces” presents 16 select images by the Linden resident on display in the Pearl Street Gallery at the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs in Elizabeth. A generous portion of Rieger-Velli’s work reflects her lifelong love of nature, expressed digitally in color and black and white.

“I prefer subjects in which I have an intimate connection,” said Rieger-Velli. “I find that connection most frequently in flowers, animals and people’s faces. I sometimes find a connection to other subjects – an arrangement of brightly colored stones in a beige wall, ice crystallized on a fence post, patterns cast by shadows, or a reflection in a puddle.”
Rieger-Velli made the transition from film to digital photography about 10 years ago. At first, she found the technology frustrating and cumbersome, but eventually grew appreciative of the speed, freedom and flexibility of the new medium. Yet she remains wary of being seduced by the allure of digital manipulation.
“I prefer to keep editing to a minimum,” Rieger-Velli explains. “I discard images that require intensive correction. My goal is to retain the essence of each image while encouraging it to speak with beauty, joy and eloquence.”
Rieger-Velli’s work has appeared in newspapers and books, on websites and at invitational exhibits. Though primarily a self-taught photographer, she further honed her skills through college courses and by networking with other artists. She learned how proper matting and framing help turn a photograph into a real work of art.
Rieger-Velli approaches her subjects from numerous angles, heights and lighting – exploring how tiny compositional alterations can yield dramatically different effects. She also enjoys simply snapping shots of family athletes running in local races.
“Photography is perfect for me,” says Rieger-Velli. “Taking pictures is my refuge – it recharges me.”
Featured on Asbury Park Press.com, August 18, 2011