Contra Costa Sun






July 24, 2002

SUSAN REYNOLDS, who is featured in a photography show at the Clayton Library, poses for a portrait at her Walnut Creek home.











Widening the viewer's aperture to nature

By Christina Engelbrecht

Those who have contemplated Susan Reynolds' photography have told her that looking at one of her photographs is like taking a mini vacation. Whether it is one of her tree portraits, textured sand dunes, wild landscapes, garden settings or scenes of San Francisco at night, there's a spiritual quality to Reynolds' work that channels a peace from the heart of the artist to the soul of the viewer.

She has a serenity about the work that is very calming, says Bob Hole Jr. of Concord. Hole is a member of the Concord Art Association, which is sponsoring Reynolds' first one-woman show at Clayton Library this summer.

Hole describes Reynolds' photography as extraordinary. "She is able to paint with light using the camera," he says.

The Clayton Library exhibit features images grouped in three series, called Death Valley, Night and Wild Landscapes. Since her childhood spent in Berkeley and Lafayette, Reynolds' life has been profoundly touched by the calming and beneficial aspects of nature. Her family hiked every weekend, and growing up she thought that's what everyone did. On stressful days, she laces up her hiking boots and releases her stress to the outdoors. On days of personal tragedy, such as the death of her father and godfather, her first impulse is to surround herself with nature.

"It's almost like church for me. It's very healing," she shares. Reynolds recorded her childhood through a Brownie camera and in high school spent hundreds of hours in her uncle's Orinda dark room, experiencing the wonders of black and white photography. She's been in a three-way relationship with nature and photography ever since.

The founder and president of SR Marketing in Walnut Creek, Reynolds even infuses the work she does for her marketing and public relations firm with her passion for nature. Her photographic hobby became a side career when she started doing professional commercial photography for landscape architects in 2000.

Suzanne Guthrie, a friend of Reynolds since their days at Stanley Middle School, says Reynolds has spent the past several years traveling all over the country to take classes and study the techniques that help to make a good photographer. The friends go on an annual hiking trip to the eastern side of the Sierras where Reynolds likes to photograph the stark landscape.

"She takes tons of photos. Anytime she goes on a trip like that she is always looking for opportunities to take photographs. It's not like she's on vacation. She's always looking for something new, or something she's seen before but wants to photograph it in a new way," Guthrie says.

"My hope is that even if people don't go to nature, but if they spend five minutes with one of my photographs, they can unwind a little," Reynolds explains.

A self-admitted activist, Reynolds declares on her photography web site: "If my images cause even a single person to reflect upon this value, to spend more time creating a relationship with nature, and to take action on behalf of protecting their favorite wilderness, all of my photographic energy will have been worth it."

"Having grown up in the Bay Area, I've seen the development of overcrowding and the pressure on open space," Reynolds explains the roots of her activism.

"Palace of Fine Arts" from the night and photography series by Susan Reynolds on exhibit at the Clayton Library.

Portrait and wedding photographer Michelle Amorin sees Reynolds' work as a significant, artistic means of documenting nature and the state of the environment in our time. "Particularly through her tree portraits, in very creative ways she uses the power and beauty of nature through her art," Amorin says.

After dissatisfying experiences trying to change the world through volunteering for large organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, Reynolds is now spreading her message one-on-one. On hikes with her godchildren, she found herself teaching botany, environmental studies and conservation through conversations she would have with the kids. Then she invited them to bring cameras and look at the landscape throw a lens.

"One-on-one, they're learning about botany, geology and wildlife. I have seen what a difference this is made with my godson and his sister and the way they stop and look and ask questions," Reynolds says.

This summer, Reynolds took her teaching to another level when she launched a successful hiking and photography class for 11-year-olds and their parents at her church.

"I do a lot of toy marketing through my company, and in 15 years I've seen the tremendous evolution toward electronic and digital toys, things that take kids away from nature. Their lives are so speeded up, they don't have the time or the chance to go out and experience nature. So if I can do that in a small way with my godkids, my neighbors, my niece, then hopefully I'm making an impact," Reynolds says.

For more information on the photography of Susan Reynolds, visit her web site at

Christina Engelbrecht can be reached at