Monthly Archives: October 2015

Reed Rowe: Structured Photography


Reed Rowe is an accomplished commercial photographer. Rowe lives in Utah and is another ‘honorary Mormon’ that attended BYU and obtained a BFA in Photography.

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Tell us a little about where you grew up and how you got into photography. I bounced around a bit growing up. I was born in Provo, but then spent the next 10 years in Othello, Washington. It was a good place to be as a small child. Farming and agriculture, horses and cows, barb wire and electric fences. Just a lot of space for a young boy to run around and get into very innocent trouble. But it really was a fun place as a child and I have nothing but fond memories of Othello. We probably would have stayed there had it not been for a few traumatic years that changed the course of our family. My father was involved in a very tragic car accident that he was very lucky to have survived. He was in a coma for three months and had several brain surgeries. His recovery took years, and to be honest it still goes on today. That event really changed my life. Life was very fragile and I didn’t really have anyone to sort of guide me as a small boy. Relatively simple things like fixing my bike was on my own shoulders now, since my dad was physically and mentally incapable at the time. Being forced into that situation was a two-edged sword. I became very introverted in many ways, but I also became very analytical as well, since I had to figure out things on my own. To this day I am a very handy person. I love to create, build, design, and repair, and I believe that developed out of necessity as a child.

My father was in a coma when Mt. Saint Helen’s erupted and our home was covered in ash. He has no memory of the incident, but it was another very memorable and traumatic incident for such a young kid. A year and a half later as my dad was trying to get back on his feet, my grandfather (my father’s father) was killed in a very tragic accident at work. My mother was a saint and a rock for our family during my father’s recovery, but my grandfather was crucial for my father. He was the one who could inspire my father in his recovery. We lived just down the dirt road from my grandparents, so the loss was massive in many ways. This series of events led my father to finish college, which resulted in him taking his first job as a teacher in Juneau, Alaska. We spent a year there, but when oil prices drop in Alaska the entire economy is affected. So we ended up in Orem, Utah, where my father’s sister and her family lived.

I had a very strong inclination in my studies towards architecture, which I pursued for awhile. It played very well to my structured and problem-solving mind. Sometimes I still wonder if that was my calling. But I eventually went the graphic design route. Graphic designers and photographers work hand-in-hand, so once again that do-it-myself instinct kicked in and I got into photography. I had graduated in graphic design and was working in the field and realized I liked photography better. I also realized I had more potential in that field. Potential in the sense of how I could personally succeed. So, after reviewing my options I ended up at BYU where I eventually graduated with a BFA in photography. Honestly, going to BYU was something I had sort of been avoiding, but what a great decision going there ended up being. The facilities, the faculty, the education, and the connections that the photography program have are unbeatable in my opinion. I loved my time there and love the people I met and learned from. John Telford, Paul Adams, and Val Brinkerhoff all taught me a variety of invaluable things, but it was my first still-life class, taught by Michael Slade, that really opened my eyes. I was hooked.

Your commercial work is fantastic. How has your approach evolved over the years? One of the things I’ve never been able to escape in my work is that very structured aspect. There has always been a very strong graphic sense to my work. It’s just how I think and work. It’s not that I am actively trying to escape it, but certain clients have needed more candid and casual images. That doesn’t come natural to me and it’s where I grown the most over the last few years. Instagram and the like have really affected the market. Certain styles have developed by what would be considered amateurs by the pros, and looked down on a bit, too. But either way, the images produced have become so commonplace that those styles invaded the professional market. Now clients want that style that was developed by very young and inexperienced kids. It’s an outrageous turn really. You are seeing look books being produced by teenagers who have this seemingly effortless style. So I’ve been forced to follow that to some degree, follow much younger photographers and try to see what they are seeing. Not entirely, but what they are doing is a very valuable and sought-after style. You have to give it credit and know its part of your competition.

You were able to travel to China on a photo trip with BYU. What was your experience? Yes, I was able to go to China. What an opportunity that was. Something that I would have never made happen on my own, and I have to thank John Telford for that opportunity. I’ve been all over the world, and many places in Asia too, but going that deep into remote parts of China was special. It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. We were on the move every day so it was very exhausting. I think that put us all on the edge a bit. Mix that with some very difficult personal issues I was going through and it makes me look back on China with some very mixed emotions. But the experience overall was amazing and unique. It was so great to see each photographer’s varying styles come out. We would all photograph the exact same locations, but the photographic translations of each spot were unique to each of us. It was great.

What’s next for you? Well, I’ve spent the majority of my photographic career working for other people. I spent a couple years at Skullcandy and a couple years at Backcountry here in Utah. The connections I made at Skullcandy still to this day keep coming back to me with opportunities. People who I used to work with there have all gone to work for other amazing companies, so I now have connections all over. I will always be grateful to my Kevin who hired me there because it has led to so much. I’m happy I still get to work closely with him to this day. At Backcountry I managed the photography studio. I had a team of about 35 people. We had a large studio in Salt Lake, a smaller one in Virginia, and a retouching team in Costa Rica. I knew that taking that job was going to teach me a lot, whether I liked the job or not. Running numbers for a team that large is not for me, but I loved working with them all. Teaching is something I love and I had the opportunity to do that with that team. I learned a lot from them as well. But for the last year and a half I have been on my own. It’s been a great return to pure photography and I am handling it much better after the experiences I had from being an employee. Things are going well. There are ups and downs for sure, but it’s all very positive right now. There are so many local companies here in Utah that have a national and international reach that I’ve been able to stay here in Salt Lake City and slowly work on building the international reach that I’d like to have. I’ve loved living here and having a studio here. I hope to keep that momentum going and keep growing right here. And more pictures of dogs, for sure.

Visit Reed Rowe’s website.

Follow Reed Rowe on Instagram.

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Emily McPhie: Beauty, Honesty, and Simplicity


Emily McPhie is a talented, inventive, and creative painter. She grew up in Utah and received a BFA with an emphasis in painting from BYU. McPhie lives with her husband and four spooky kids in Chandler, Arizona.


How would you describe yourself as an artist?

A storyteller.

A seeker of truth.

A quiet observer.

An imaginative dreamer.

An interpreter.

One who yearns for beauty, honesty and simplicity.

You once said you have “a need to decipher and a yearning to create”. I love making things and I want to make sense of the world and of my experience in it. When I create paintings I am fulfilling three needs: order, beauty, and expression. I organize an idea into an image, do my best to make it beautiful, and ultimately try to portray emotion, thought, story, and realizations. Often, I experience catharsis – as in a purging of emotions that results in renewal – when I paint that sorts out the muddle and jumble in my head. The amazing result of my inward and authentic expression is that, we being similar creatures, my work can be a light in the world. And that is pretty awesome.

What themes do you most like to explore? Do you start with an image in your mind or subject matter you want to illustrate? I’m a mother of four and that defines and consumes me. I’ve grown into this person I am through a steady tic tock of mothering my darling children and creating art. All of this woven with threads of love and faith, spirituality and devotion. I fancy myself a storyteller. I love creating art around my interpretations of existing stories and stories of my own that identify strengths and weaknesses, or recognize emotions that are so so deep down that they can’t be grabbed and brought into the light, or that celebrate humanity and the sorrow and the joy to be had in this existence. I’d like to go about my business with a pair of parabolic lenses, learning truth and moral lessons as the days roll by.

My images usually come from an idea, a crazy brain dump in words on a page of my sketchbook, or after rolling around in my head for a while. I that case, I sketch, take pictures, gather images and patterns and puzzle a piece together. Sometimes things happen in reverse, I’ll have a picture jump out at me and it will morph into a painting with the meaning emerging out of the image. The start is my favorite part, dreaming up a composition and watching it take form as I play around with it.

How has your style evolved over the years? The maturity that comes with experience upon experience as life whirls by has given me and my art new depth. It’s a beautiful gift that has me looking forward to what will unfold in the future.

Visit Emily McPhie’s website.

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Sarah Keele: Disney with an Edge


Sarah Keele is an illustrator and graduated from BYU with a BFA in the Concept Design Track of the Illustration Emphasis and received the Outstanding Senior Graduate Award from the Illustration Department. She represented the Design Program by giving a speech at convocation. Keele and her husband live in Utah.


Tell us about your background. I was born in California and lived all over the place until I finally settled in Utah. With purchasing a nice big home and a little one on the way, I think we’re here to stay. However, a little piece of my heart will always belong to Virginia where my grandparents reside. They live in a woodsy area with about a dozen acres of land. I went there every summer growing up and it’s where some of my fondest childhood memories were made. A lot of influence from my fantasy style artwork comes from there too. Shortly after graduation I had a brief internship with Origin Studios until I was hired on as a full time contract artist at Wahoo Studios here in Orem. Now that contract has ended and so I’m working from home on various freelance projects, home remodeling and preparing for a baby to join our family.

Describe your art. I have heard it described as Disney style with an edge. I am not actively trying to emulate Disney artists, but I suppose that if that’s what comes naturally to me, I might as well roll with it. That said, I do on occasion try elements of styles that do not come naturally to me, but that I consider to be beautiful, in an effort to continually broaden my ‘style spectrum’ so to speak. My goal is for one day, people won’t look at my work and see a strong ‘Disney’ influence, but rather they’ll be able to immediately put my name next to my style.

How do you think art fits into our worship in the Church? How could we use it more effectively? This is a great question. In D&C 25:12 it says: “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” This scripture can be applied to visual art as well. A painting of the righteous is a prayer unto God. This doesn’t mean that every painting an artist does has to be a painting of Christ or some religious sentiment, but rather the state of mind he or she has while creating a work of art. “For my soul delighteth in the painting of the heart.” For me, I have to have gratitude and thanksgiving for the Lord always. I wouldn’t have got as far as I have without him. And, it’s not because he gave me a talent, it’s because he gave me the opportunities and encouragement I needed to develop it. Another thing to remember is that art is a defining feature in culture and has been for centuries. That’s a huge and awesome responsibility to artists of all sorts. A childhood friend once asked me, “What’s so great about art?” This childhood friend’s life did infact revolve around the latest video games, her favorite movies and Saturday morning cartoons. There is an artist behind every pop culture icon and yet, it’s so subtle and so powerful, children don’t recognize it as art. To them, it’s reality. Recognizing this as you create art, especially art that children will be exposed to, you can have a positive influence on how people see the world, what kind of person they become and how they in turn impact the world.

Visit Sarah Keele’s website.

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Sarah Keele

Robert T. Barrett: Illustration

Prayer in the Desert

Robert T. Barrett is perhaps Mormonism’s most accomplished illustrator. He has been a fixture at BYU for 30 years as a professor in the illustration program with much of that time as the department chair or area head. He is prolific with a long list of books, commissions, murals, and sculptures. Barrett has had a number of one-man shows including those at the Society of Illustrators, Springville Art Museum, and the Busam Gallerie in Berlin, Germany. Barrett received a BFA in Painting from the University of Utah in 1973 and an MA and MFA in painting from the University of Iowa in 1975 and 1976. He lives in Utah with his wife and is the father of ten children.

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Tell us about your art career these days. I more recently completed a 5′ X 11′ mural for the School of Education at BYU on the theme ‘Children’s Celebration of the Arts’ to celebrate Beverly Sorensen and her support of arts education for young people. It was permanently installed in the McKay Building on campus earlier this year. This experience incentivized me to start doing larger, more substantive work including a few religiously themed paintings.

I love history and traditional art so am often chosen to illustrate stories related to historical events. I am continuing to do editorial illustration assignments including recent stories on Abigail Adams and the Underground Railroad as well as children’s picture books. I continue to find ways to use the human figure in my work including dancers and a Steam Punk figure that was included in the Springville Salon this year. I am traveling to the Kendall School of Art and Hillesdale College later this month to lecture about my work including some drawing and painting demos from live models.

You have been associated with the BYU Illustration program for a long time and it has developed into quite the program with a roster of accomplished graduates. What do you think has set this program apart? Thanks, yes, I noticed you had posted many former students on The Krakens as well as several full and part time faculty members teaching in our program. I think our faculty are excellent and have had a large impact on the success of our students. Many of our adjunct faculty members have received numerous recognitions for their creative work and bring tremendous industry experience into the classroom.

Our program is also very competitive and we accept only the best students who have proved their ability to be successful through class performance and portfolio reviews. They continue to foster a culture of healthy competitiveness. We have also been blessed with endowed funding to assist students with scholarships and internships. We are able to bring several top-notch artists and illustrators to BYU every semester and sponsor annual field trips to LA and NYC as well as study abroad opportunities to Italy, France, and England. Exposure to great art and other successful artists has proven to be very beneficial to our students and faculty in the Illustration Program. We have excellent ties with alumni working in major studios as well as those with successful freelance careers. Next year we will sponsor a high school design camp to attract and recruit promising students.

You have written about the Church’s history with Harry Anderson. Many of his images have become canon within the Church and adorn meetinghouses around the world. How do you feel about balancing our art history with introducing new works into the Church art repertoire? Harry Anderson continues to have an influence on the art and artists in the Church. Two guest lecturers this semester (Fall 2015) referenced his influence on their work. Our guest Steve Rude is a comic book artist but traveled to Connecticut four times during his career to visit Harry and talk about his narrative paintings. At Steve’s request, we went to the visitor’s center on Temple Square to see several originals last month.

I believe the Church will always embrace traditional story-telling art but there seems to also be a culture developing in the Church for art that is more symbolic and personal. I believe there is room for all forms of expression as long as it is appropriate and supports the best parts of our belief system.

What’s next for you? To some extent, continue what I am doing including the completion of more monumental work. A few years ago, I authored and illustrated a book on Life Drawing which has become quite successful and is now published in five different languages. I have begun work on a painting book as well and would love to see that completed and published in the near future. I have become fascinated with sculpture and would like to spend some time doing figurative work in that discipline at some point.

Visit Robert T. Barrett’s website.

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Melanie Mauer: More Kentucky Weddings


Melanie Mauer is a phenomenal professional photographer with a unique talent for weddings. She was born in Germany, but grew up all over the United States and now lives in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. She has been working professionally since 1999 and her work has been featured in Martha Stewart WeddingsSouthern Weddings, and The Washington Post. We previously profiled Melanie Mauer’s wedding photography.

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What are the unique challenges to shooting weddings? So many photographers avoid weddings – there are short moments that can be stressful but I wake up a little bit happier on a wedding day. I’m there to document a union and celebration! I’m an optimist so my heart feels that portion of the day more than anything else.

Weddings require a versatility of photographic skills – portraits, details, low lighting…but it wouldn’t be as satisfying otherwise. And it can be physical – we may move furniture, be outside in 95 degree weather in a southeastern summer for the majority of the day and an assistant looked at her Fitbit recently (not at the end of the day even) and we’d already clocked 7 miles.

It takes a particular temperament perhaps to love them as much as I do but given that I find the most beautiful thing on the planet to be human relationships, it’s a goldmine for me. Oh, and I only work with lovely people!

Give us some more of your favorite wedding stories? Oh goodness! There’s a bride who was in remission and another who was nervous until she got on the golf course in her wedding gown and hit a few balls because she loved the sport so much. There’s one who set her wedding on a mountaintop, and others that changed their wedding dates so ill fathers could be there. There’s a mother who told me she had cancer and her daughter didn’t know but she wanted me to take the right kind of photos “just in case.” My first Indian wedding that had me completely overcome with the entry of the groom and the jubilation of friends and family dancing to the most amazing music. I see a really exquisite slice of life.

Visit Melanie Mauer’s website.

Follow Melanie Mauer on Instagram.