By Craig Stocks / Photography by Craig Stocks
Peoria, Illinois photographer Julie Dodge finds beauty and inspiration in nature. Her Artist Statement says, “My passion is capturing ordinary places during magical light and time to make my images evoke a sense of magnificence, wonderment and mystery.”
Julie is a native of Peoria, but experienced a lot of the country while growing up. She’s always been a “nature person.” “I was lucky to have been born into a family where my mother made it a priority to travel,” she said. “We traveled across the nation with a pop-up camper and stopped in the national parks. We went to a lot of amazing places.”
That was also the start of Julie’s love of both photography and the way it allowed her to share her love of the outdoors with others. “A lot of the other kids in school didn’t ever go anywhere, but I was different since we went places on summer vacations. I would take pictures, and then I got to share my photos.”
After high school, Julie went to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to study photojournalism, but found it didn’t really tug at her heartstrings. She soon switched her major to marketing and advertising, which allowed her to exercise her visual creativity and stay involved with photography.
After graduation, she went to work at Caterpillar. Her first job was as a graphic designer, but she later moved into marketing. For a while, travel and photography took a backseat to working. “It really came back with a vengeance when I realized something was missing in my life. I ordered a digital camera and left for Sedona, Arizona the day after it arrived,” she said.
“That really opened up a whole new world for me. You didn’t have to be really selective like you did with film when you only had 36 exposures on a roll. I could try different things. It was through all of that experimenting that I brought my photography to a whole new level.
“Another milestone was when I had knee surgery that went bad. Up to that point, I really hadn’t done much with my pictures, but I had all of these photos that were stuck in my computer. I couldn’t go out and do all of these physical things, but I still had photography. While I was in the hospital, I thought, ‘If I only had some photos to look at.’ It took on a whole new meaning.”
As Julie continued her recovery, she started taking workshops to “hone my skills and learn my camera.” She also joined the Peoria Camera Club, which allowed her to advance her skills even more. “Joining the camera club was really pivotal for me. Basically, I had a more focused approach to my photography,” she explained.
“It also made me realize all of the great places I’ve been in Central Illinois,” she continued. “I got to experience all of these wonderful places. I wanted to be able to share the story that we live in a beautiful environment.
“That’s also when I really started working harder on post processing. I think it’s the post processing that sets me apart. A photograph isn’t just taken, it’s made. Kevin May was one of my role models and mentors. He told me, ‘you need to bring back your colors to how you remember them.’ I like my photos to be bold and vibrant.”
Julie also credits exhibitions and competitions with helping her improve. “In the end though, you have to please yourself. But, it helps develop a critical eye. And, it allows you to collaborate and share and show your photos.
“When you think about exhibiting in a show, you really need a common theme. A theme I’m working on now is taking pictures of elements of nature. I don’t get hung up on what everyone else is doing; I like to stay focused on what appeals to me.”
Julie’s Artist Statement reveals one of her techniques. “My secret for finding special places is simple ~ get out the map, get off the beaten path, and get ready for nature’s everchanging moments. Best of all, you don’t have to travel far ~ nature’s beauty is hidden right here ~ in our own backyard.”
For Julie, nature and photography are inseparable themes in her life. “Photography,” she said, “has enabled me to stay in touch with nature.”
You can see many of Julie’s photos on the photo sharing website Flickr.com.