‘Explorations’ exhibit

Posted: October 6, 2012

The Winchester Star

“Explorations,” a show on display at the Barns of Rose Hill, features photographs by John P. Lewis. Two of his 36 archival pigment prints on display include “Drying Silk” (left) and “North Face Mount Everest.” (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
The “Taj Mahal” in Agra, India, is one of the Lewis photographs in the exhibit.

Berryville — A new photography exhibit at the Barns of Rose Hill takes visitors from the snow-packed peaks of Mount Everest to the quiet ruins of an ancient Cambodian city to the desolation of Death Valley.

“Explorations” is a black-and-white look at the world through the eyes and lenses of photographer John P. Lewis of Clarke County. The 36 images on display, along with a local resident’s collection of antique cameras, will continue through Nov. 21 in the lower gallery at 95 Chalmers Court. Admission is free.

The photographs are mostly images that Lewis, 75, has taken in the last five years in his travels locally and around the world. They include views of Balance Rock in Arches National Park, the Taj Mahal in India, Ponte de Rialto in Venice, Italy, and Cabo Archipelago in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

“That’s what upsets my wife — I don’t take pictures of family,” he said with a smile. “I take pictures when traveling.”

A trip first sparked Lewis’ interest in photography. In 1986, he was invited to go on an expedition to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and his wife Marjorie gave him a camera to capture the experience.

Lewis thought about including one of the pictures captured on that first trip in his new exhibit, but didn’t because he thought “they are not very good.” But at the time, seeing the images he had captured was enough to spark a new passion that has grown with time.

Especially with his early trips, Lewis would put together slide shows when he returned to share with the couple’s friends and say “this is what it was like there,” his wife said. She sees his photography as a desire to share his experiences.

Through the years, Lewis has taken organized trips, traveled with friends or gone with his wife, Marjorie Lewis said. In recent years, photography has taken a more prominent role in those trips. “It has been driving the travel as opposed to a result of the travel,” she said.

Last December, Lewis made a photography-related trip to Cuba. One of the images he took there was a ballerina waiting in the wings at the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. “She looked up at me and I got her picture.”

Lewis plans to return to Cuba in January for another photography trip.

While on a trip three years ago to Morocco, Lewis’ group took a tour of a craft market where pieces of silk were drying on lines high in the air. “They had no color. I have this in color and you can’t tell the difference.”

A few pictures were taken locally, including “Hermes at Sunrise,” which pictures a group of horses Lewis photographed in his front yard. He donated the print in color to an art show auction under the name “Horses at Sunrise,” but organizers misread his writing. He thought their version was a better title, so he kept it. “It just struck my fancy.”

An image of Wallace’s Dock shot in Friendship, Maine, is the most recent photograph in the exhibit — it was made a month ago. He called it his favorite for now because his favorite always seems to be “the last one I take.”

All of the images are archival pigment prints that Lewis printed on an Epson 3880 printer. Most are digital, though some are film photographs that he scanned and converted to digital. One is Ilfochrome, a positive-to-positive photographic process he used until the lab stopped handling the film.

The images on display are grouped by themes the show’s curator Tony Furioso, an intern at the Barns, saw when Lewis brought them in for the exhibit. Different aspects of the photographs made some go well together, whether it was that they were of figures or the lines and shapes in the images.

“They are spectacular photographs,” he said.

What stands out most about them is that while they are images from a variety of countries, “there is relativity to each photograph that people can feel,” said Cheryl Ash, interim director of the Barns.

The black-and-white images have an old-world feel complemented by 21 antique Kodak cameras from the collection of LeRoy Jacobson of Clarke County, Ash said. Jacobson started collecting them about 30 years ago and has accumulated 50 to 60 cameras.

“It is a different facet to a photographic experience,” she said. “We think it augments the exhibit for the viewer.”

Lewis is the former president of Winchester-based Mid Atlantic Network Inc., which belonged to his family and was sold in 2007 to Centennial Broadcasting II LLC. The company included Winchester radio properties WINC AM/FM and Real Classic Rock, as well as two Fredericksburg radio stations.

He started working for the company in high school, signing on the station every Sunday morning. He started as a news reporter in 1959 and worked at different stations as a reporter and manager. He headed the company most of his life, retiring after the sale.

Retired doesn’t mean inactivity for Lewis, though. He is on the boards of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Mt. Hebron Cemetery and the Clermont Farm Foundation, and is active in the Winchester Rotary Club.

He said he has had more time for his photography, but that doesn’t mean he has taken the time. His main pursuits are “community activities, reading and aging.”


“Explorations,” a photographic exhibit by John P. Lewis, will be on display through Nov. 21 in the Barns of Rose Hill at 95 Chalmers Court in Berryville. Admission is free. For more information, call 540-955-2004 or go to barnsofrosehill.org.

— Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland@winchesterstar.com