“I often photograph something that someone can’t really tell what it is.“
Dorothea Marcus is a photographer and art collector based in Woodstock, N.Y. She has been a photographer for the last 10 years and has been collecting art since before she went to college. In addition to being a photographer, Marcus has a long-time career as a real estate agent and is on the board at the Woodstock Library. Galleries throughout the Hudson Valley have showcased her work, including “Our Lady of Havana” and “Abstraction.” She has taken photos in various places around the country like Maine and New York City. She also has been around the world, photographing in Cuba, Japan and Morocco. Marcus takes photos with her iPhone and prints them with a pigment printer.
What was it like traveling to a different country to photograph?
My trip to Morocco in early 2018 was the first trip that I took where I was deliberately photographing. I had never sold photos, but I was posting them on Facebook as I was traveling. I got a really huge and positive response from them.
I found there was a guy who lives by me who has the equipment to do large-scale prints with pigment. It’s paint that gets sprayed onto the paper. So a lot of those Morocco photos looked more like paintings than photographs. A lot of artists thought my photographs looked like paintings.
The first expensive piece of art I bought was a photograph of Morocco that looked like a painting. It was the seed that was planted, and now I photograph and print to make it look like a painting.
When I showed a couple of them to Robert Langdon, the curator of the Emerge Art Gallery in Saugerties, he gave me the whole front of the gallery. I had a mini-show there, and I sold 11 or 12 photographs.
What was it like going to Cuba?
I took a photography tour there in December 2018. A photograph I did there is at the Wired Gallery in High Falls, N.Y. It’s called “Our Lady of Havana.”
One of the first days on the tour, we went to this big public square in Havana. I took a photo of this 12-foot-tall bronze statue. When the owner of Wired selected this photo, he thought it was a mural painted on the side of a building. He didn’t realize he was looking through the sculpture.
What I loved in Cuba and Morocco was the colors of the buildings since a lot of my photographs are of architecture.
How was it going to Japan?
I was with my son when I went the following year. It was a challenge for me in Tokyo because it had all these gray buildings built after World War II, so I had to take different kinds of photographs. It was interesting to be able to take the kind of photographs I like in a more drab environment. There were a couple of blurry photos at night and one of a skyscraper.
Why use an iPhone? Is it better than a camera?
My computer is a Mac, and I’ve always had iPhones. The year I went to Morocco was the first year I bought a new phone that had two lenses. I got really great photos from my phone. People think that from phone photographs, you can’t do a really big enlargement so it won’t look good. But it’s not true. Plus it’s just easier for me to keep using an iPhone so everything syncs with my computer.
What’s your process for choosing what to take a photo of?
I was always an art collector. I’ve been collecting art since before I was in college, and I’ve always been drawn to good art. I often photograph something that someone can’t really tell what it is. It’s really just what catches my eye. I’m not really into typical tourist pictures, more like color and texture.
If someone likes a piece of my art enough to want it in their home, that’s a very nice feeling. But that’s not why I do it.
Is it a passion of yours?
Yes. I’m 74, and it’s only been the last 10 years that I’ve been making art. I don’t sell art as a livelihood. I still work as a realtor. There are three major ways that I spend my time and energy and one of them is art. One of them is real estate because that’s how I make a living. And the other one is community service because I’m on the board of the Woodstock Library. Making a difference in the community means a lot to me.
What is the Women’s Photography Collective of the Hudson Valley?
A photographer named Kay Kenny was kind of the main person behind organizing the group. There was a feeling that some of the photography organizations that were available locally were kind of dominated by a few men. Some women didn’t feel comfortable going to portfolio critiques because there were men who talked a lot and kind of dominated the conversation.
So Kenny thought it would be nice to form a collective since there were a lot of really excellent women photographers in the area.
We have a Zoom meeting every month for artists to show their work, to review what they’re working on and look for feedback. We also share technical tips. It’s been fun.
Our first exhibit was exactly a year ago, and “Diversity” is our fourth exhibit as a collective.