Mixing art and science

Friday, January 2, 2004

Stepping into Dr. David Crowe's office is like walking into an art gallery, with panoramic shots of a crumbling stone mill amid a forest of flowering trees ready to bud, photographs of rock formations in Utah and Western skylines lining the walls.

Much of his office on Broadway in Cape Girardeau was designed so it could showcase Crowe's photography. Office manager Carol Statler said one of the rounded walls was designed and built long before Crowe had the perfect picture to hang on it.

Photography isn't just a hobby for Crowe. It was actually his first career; orthodontics came later. "I was a photographer who became an orthodontist," he said.

In high school, Crowe fell in love with making images. He created a film but soon learned that filmmaking would be too hard and too costly for his tastes. So he picked up still photography instead.

Photography helped pay for his education, Crowe said. He worked as a photographer during college and as a medical photographer during dental school. And it's always been an avocation to which he has returned.

One of his images of Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park in Utah is on display during January with the Visual Arts Cooperative in downtown Cape Girardeau.

Crowe says there's a direct parallel between his photography and orthodontics. "It's a marriage of art and science. There's something in both that I can't really totally describe that draws me to both the technical and the aesthetic," Crowe said.

But he'd rather keep technology out of it.

He prefers film over digital images and usually takes his photos without using an automatic camera if possible. "I'm an old-fashioned man who doesn't even like automatic cameras. I prefer an old light meter and a tripod."

Regardless of how his photos are shot, something about the process of creating a picture interests him. Crowe said he likes capturing a scene as it surrounds him. He isn't much for manipulating images using computers.

"I want to be able to say, 'That's what it looked like,'" he said.

So when he set out to take a photograph of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, he created an image that showed both the old and new bridge at once.

That image was selected for the 2004 Concord Printing Services calendar.

And that calendar spurred another project for Crowe. He'll spend much of the coming year working on a compilation of Cape Girardeau images for a 2005 calendar.

"I realized that I have a lot of Southeast Missouri and Cape Girardeau images," he said.

In the past, his office has been a showcase for a set of four-seasons photos taken within a 15-minute walk of his office. In his collection, there's a picture of the corner of Thilenius and Caruthers streets in the spring when the trees are in full bloom, a picture of a rock pile amid autumn leaves that used to be the place Crowe played with neighbors as a child, and the Bollinger Mill surrounded by a blanket of snow.

Many of his other landscape photos were taken on various trips, whether to the deserts in Arizona or hiking in Utah. He tries to go to a new place each year and to capture at least one good photo while he's there.

"But you don't have to travel to see beautiful scenery," he said. Locations change personality with a difference in the weather or light.

"You can stand in the same spot two days in a row and get totally different pictures," Crowe said.


335-6611, extension 126

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