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Photography Student Already Finding Success
The Advocate

Rachel Ridgely recently had some of her art in a show in New York City. She currently is exhibiting in the Licking County Arts Juried Art Show in LeFevre Hall at the Newark campus of OSU/COTC. (Michael Lehmkuhle, The Advocate)

NEWARK -- Newark resident Rachel Ridgely still has two years ahead of her at Columbus College of Art and Design, but the up-and-coming photographer already has exhibited her work in New York City.

Ridgely traveled to the Big Apple in June to see two of her photographs displayed at the Affordable Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion. One of the works, "Classroom," sold to a Manhattan couple. The image was taken in an abandoned building where her family members once attended school.

Ridgely, 20, said she had been to New York City before but being there as an exhibiting artist was especially exciting. "I felt important going into the gallery," she said. "I didn't have to pay. I was on the guest list, and that was cool."

A self-taught photographer and 2006 graduate of Newark Catholic, Ridgely said the New York show grew out of her affiliation with the emerging artist Web site

"I joined it not thinking anything would come of it, but it was free," she said.

After one of her works sold to a buyer in California, the site owner called and asked her permission to take two of her photographs to the New York fair, which attract more than 70 galleries from all around the world.

Now back home in Ohio, Ridgely has two pieces -- a photo book and a print -- on display as part of the Licking County Arts Juried Art Show at LeFevre Hall on the Newark campus of Ohio State University and Central Ohio Technical College. Her homemade book, "Past and Future," took second place for photography. The exhibition is hanging through Aug. 9.

"She is a very dedicated young artist," said Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart, LCA gallery curator. "She has the observation skills of an old soul. She sees things many people would overlook completely and she takes it to the next step."

Ridgely's work, indeed, has the appearance of age, even though she works with a Nikon digital camera. She captures images of landscapes and abandoned buildings and layers them with textures derived from photos of rust, grimy windows or weathered wood.

"I like looking at all the aged pictures, so I try to replicate that with mine," she said. "I just like the history to them. They tell a story." "Past and Future" was created from a photo album Ridgely bought at an antique store. Some tea-colored images still occupied the pages. Ridgely added her own to complement them. Her originals -- of historic buildings, old farms and misty landscapes -- have a stillness and loneliness.

Her German Shepherd mix, Zero, also makes frequent appearances. In fact, it was her love of animals that first led the photographer to her art at the age of 13. Today, she keeps that passion alive by volunteering for Stop the Suffering, an animal rescue organization, and by taking pet portraits.

Whether photographing pets or people, however, she keeps one thing in mind: Stay true to her fine art focus.

"I don't like forced posing. No fake backgrounds," she said. "I keep it an art form."