We had the good fortune of connecting with Deborah Bay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Deborah, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I’m almost a native Houstonian, coming here from Cleveland, Ohio, when I was three months old. My grandparents were starting a plant nursery in the Heights, and my parents came to help out. After graduating from Waltrip High School I spent time in Austin, earning degrees from The University of Texas and returned to Houston in the 1990s. My first career was in journalism, influenced by my mother, who loved words (and books). My second career as a photographic artist was influenced by my father, who loved pictures (and was into photography and watercolor).
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work explores the beauty of light and color. It builds on a studio practice focused on constructed, macro (close-up) photography. I often use the camera as a tool for highlighting details of physical phenomena that are overlooked or not easily observed. The images presented here are part of the Traveling Light series, which brings together an eclectic set of influences ranging from geometric constructivism and the Bauhaus to color field. I collected an assortment of lenses and prisms to explore how light and color interact with optical materials – seeming to bounce nonchalantly across surfaces, yet strictly bound by the laws of physics. The objects were layered and stacked at angles to capture light wrapping around form, with film gels creating lines and planes of color. How did I get here? After working in public affairs for a number of years, I decided to switch gears and began exploring photography more formally as an alternate means of expression. I took classes at the Glassell School of Art and checked out almost every photography book at the downtown public library to learn the history of the medium. I’m not sure that anyone who finds professional success would say it’s easy. Persistence, luck, curiosity, initiative, drive – so many factors influence one’s professional trajectory.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In these abnormal times, we might not be able to take full advantage of Houston’s array of art and culinary treasures. But I’d make reservations when necessary and head for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and Menil Collection, including the Rothko Chapel. I’d also have a list of art galleries to visit, and Second Saturdays at Sawyer Yards are fun. We’d check out virtual events for the Houston Symphony and the Alley Theater, along with 4th Wall and Main Street Theater. For outdoor activities: Eastern Glades at Memorial Park, then over to Houston Arboretum; on another day, Buffalo Bayou Park or Houston Botanic Garden. While I’ve always had many restaurants to suggest when friends visit, it’s difficult to say how and when the dining scene will be back to “normal” and what that will mean. But Backstreet Cafe has a nice patio, and we love takeout from Soma Sushi and Brasserie 19.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are many people who have helped me find my professional footing. Geoffrey Koslov and Bryn Larsen at Foto Relevance, which represents my work, have been wonderfully supportive; Peter Brown, who has taught at Rice’s Glasscock School for many years, offered insight and a dose of confidence when I was starting out. And, of course I have to shoutout to all the friends and family members who have provided generous amounts of encouragement and enthusiasm over the years!
Deborah Bay Alan Montgomery Geoffrey Koslov