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Ray Richards’ Work Is Dark and Moody

New Anderson Artists Guild member Ray Richards blooms wherever he’s planted. With a dad in the Navy, he attended 20 different schools before high school. “I loved it,” he said. “I liked going places, seeing new things, exploring, meeting new people.”

He graduated from the University of North Carolina Charlotte with a degree in quantitative analysis and started his career at a cotton mill before signing on with Michelin, where he used analytical skills to fix complicated process problems. That is, he designed tests to figure out multiple things that had to be changed in order to fix a problem. Such changes might involve modifications in engineering designs or processes. He also analyzed how much such changes would cost. “It was a very interesting and fun job,” he said. He even turned down opportunities to advance into management, preferring to “do the work.”

After retiring in 1996, he started a sign and graphic business in Spartanburg, but health problems forced him to close it. He has had two heart attacks, a stroke, and cancer. “I kicked all of these things,” he said.

It was while recovering from open heart surgery that he rediscovered photography and started shooting flowers around the neighborhood with an old SLR camera. When he entered a couple of shows at the Anderson Arts Center—and got rejections both times—a potter he knew told him his pictures were pretty but were not art. “That was a huge help to me,” said Richards. “It got me out of the flower business and into more artistic endeavors.”

In 2006, he converted to digital photography, and one day he went to the Clemson Botanical Gardens but forgot the memory card. But he encountered a professional photographer whose work had appeared in National Geographic and Life magazines, and the man became his mentor, helping him improve not only his compositions but also the quality of his printing and presentation.

These days, Richards uses a mirrorless Sony a7RIII and is drawn to anything with interesting geometry. He shoots mostly in black and white, which allows for his trademark moodiness. One of his favorite photos was taken on Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. He was there for a photography workshop, and the task was to shoot the instructor from shore as he drove a boat back and forth. But far more interesting to Richards was a cross rising out of the wasteland of the marsh as the sun rose. It’s called Christ Is Life.

Another favorite—and the winner of two Best in Show awards—is called It’s Time. It was shot with fellow AAG member Ron Kennedy for a singer’s CD cover. Kennedy is blurred in the background. In the foreground and in focus is his rough mechanic’s hand holding a pocket watch. “It’s like death is coming,” said Richards. “It’s representative of my work—dark and moody.”

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