By Jason A. Smith
A local art gallery is featuring the photography of a Henry County resident during an upcoming exhibit.
Lanny Milbrandt, of Stockbridge, will display 25-30 of his printed pieces from April 29 to May 30 at Arts Clayton in Jonesboro. He received the opportunity after winning the gallery's juried photography show last year.
Milbrandt, 68, first became enamored with taking pictures when he was six years old, growing up in Minnesota. He said part of the reason the hobby appealed to him at such a young age, was because it seemed like a "grown-up" activity.
He said his passion for capturing moments on film grew when he was a photographer for his high school. "It was great, because I got to use all this really neat mechanical equipment, and I got out of study hall to do something more interesting," he said.
He then attended Minnesota State University (in Mankato), where he majored in physics, and later history. However, it was an art appreciation class that sparked his interest in having a career in photography.
"I had to be involved in art," Milbrandt explained. "That was where the challenge was."
Still, his previous majors are evident in several of the pieces which will be displayed at the gallery next week. Some of the work reveals his interests in automobiles, while other pieces display "things that have a history."
After college, Milbrandt, who has a Ph.D. in Art Education from Arizona State University, taught at public schools in Iowa and Minnesota from 1961-78. He taught for 12 years at the University of Wichita in Kansas, and later served as dean of the College of Arts at Valdosta State University. He retired from education in 2002.
Milbrandt, who has also worked in ceramics, glassblowing and jewelry design, said a well-rounded body of interests is an essential part of the creative process. "The greater depth you have in a [given] area, the more you have to be creative with," he said.
One professional photographer who Milbrandt looks to for inspiration is Ansel Adams. The Stockbridge resident said he is "astounded" by Adams' self-discipline and focus.
"Everybody's seen his work, and they think he just took a photograph and it turned out in the camera the way they see it," Milibrandt said. "But he did an awful lot of manipulation in the darkroom, analogous to what a digital photographer today would do with Photoshop ... to modify the image and make it better," Milbrandt said.
Milbrandt believes a large portion of the creativity artists of all kinds employ has to do with problem-solving. "When a painter paints on a canvas, with the first mark he makes, he doesn't know what the final image is going to look like," he said. "That first mark speaks to him."
This approach, he said, creates a "dialogue" between the photographer and the subject, which allows him to continually revise and refine his work.
Karen Powers, gallery manager at Arts Clayton, said she is excited to give Milbrandt a forum to display his work for local residents. She believes the diversity in his art will appeal to a wide audience.
"[Milbrandt] doesn't have just one subject matter that catches his eye," Powers explained. "It shows the photographer's range, and benefits the patron by showing how one photographer handles that range."
Milbrandt said one of the most important lessons he has learned, during his years in photography, is that it is important to take chances and to be unafraid of failure.
"It's important to fail a lot, and to know when you fail, so that you can learn from it," he said. "Anybody that plays it safe isn't going to grow. If we all did what we already know, civilization would never progress."
A reception for Milbrandt will be held May 1 at Arts Clayton, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Admission to the reception, and the exhibit, is free.