The photographer's eye

By Ed Brock

Shortly after the death of her father in the early 1990s, Phyllis Walker found herself going from church to church, seeking peace.

She found inspiration as well.

"I happened to notice sparkling sunlight coming through the window, covering the sanctuary," Walker said.

It was at that point that Walker, who was already developing her interest in photography, began taking pictures of the stained glass windows in churches around Georgia and Florida.

Walker, who is 54 and operates an online gallery of her work from her home in the Lovejoy area, began her career in photography after having a prayer answered. It happened in 1975 when she was living in Winston-Salem, N.C. and she began having problems with her eyesight.

"I went to an ophthalmologist in who told me that it was a contact lens problem," Walker said.

Not trusting that diagnosis, Walker returned to Atlanta and saw her family ophthalmologist "who at 3 p.m. on a Friday made the diagnosis of a massively detached retina in the left eye."

"They said that by 6 o'clock Friday evening you could lose the retina," Walker said.

The doctors performed an operation that just two years before would have been impossible, and as she prayed for recovery Walker promised that she would pursue a "passion that had been on the back burner," ? photography.

"As a child I was always fascinated by color, light and form," she said.

While she still suffers from macular degeneration, Walker recovered most of her eyesight and began taking pictures while still working for television stations in advertising and billing. Then in 1990 her father collapsed from a heart attack and stroke.

"I put my life on hold and watched over my father for four years," Walker said.

After her father's death Walker felt like "getting out of the rat race" and friends encouraged her to begin exhibiting and trying to sell her botanical photos. She took their advice and started going to various art festivals but did not initially consider selling the stained glass window photos she had been taking.

Before she began selling those photos she had made arrangements with the churches simply to provide them with copies that they could use in their own publications. When she began selling the pieces she began giving them 20 percent of her sales profit.

Her most recent photos are of the windows at Oakhurst Presbyterian Church in Decatur.

"This is a great church," Walker said, pointing out that the image of Jesus in one window has a darker skin tone that she said is more in keeping with Biblical descriptions.

Walker's botanical pieces have sold well and she has won several awards in the Southeast Flower Show in Atlanta, but she's still trying to find a niche for them with buyers of sacred art.

She sees the pictures hanging not in "high tech" settings but "in rooms where they have mahogany book shelves and oriental rugs."

Some of the pictures are hanging in the gift shop at Callenwolde Fine Arts Center on Briarcliff Road in Atlanta.

"They're small pictures but they're beautiful," said Carol Hale, manager of the gift shop. "They're very detailed."

The art displayed in the gift shop is selected by highly qualified judges and must meet certain high standards, Hale said.

Walker said she is self-taught and takes all of her photos in available light.

"No flash, no filter, no tripod," Walker said. "I have a tripod. I think I've used it once."

The Vivatar Series I 19mm macro lens she uses is a collector's item now, Walker said, but she likes the detail and magnification it provides. She used to develop her own film as well but had to turn that over to a friend because of her asthma.

Walker also does public speaking on photography.

Her Web site business, www.hummingbird-studios.com, was hit hard by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but her sales are rebounding with the improving economy.