Carol Massegee says she always liked photography. But when she got serious about it a year and a half ago, she started down a path she didn’t expect.
In addition to being a successful business owner for 30 years, mother of five and nana to nine, Massegee can add the title of award-winning photographer to the list.
She lives on a 200-acre ranch situated just over the Socorro County line with her husband, Howard. A wall in her living room holds large prints of some of her favorite pictures, including the one titled “The Way Home.”
That picture, a sepia toned shot of a quite, tree-lined driveway in Bosque Farms, took first place in the Scenic/Landscape Category at the annual New Mexico Photographic Art Show last year.
Of the more than 2,000 entries for the show, 225 were juried in and two were Massegee’s.
“The Way Home” actually sold during the show.
“I entered three and two were taken,” Massegee said. “To had two taken and then one sold, and there were only 28 pieces sold at the show — that was incredible.”
What started with an eight-hour class on how to use your camera blossomed into a possible second career for Massegee.
“I had a very nice camera and my soon-to-be daughter-in-law found the class in Albuquerque,” she said. “After that, I just went crazy. Ask my husband.”
Massegee entered her photographs in several local shows, including the Harvey House Museum spring and fall shows, the Bosque Farms Fair competition and the Belen Art League shows. In her spare room — which is her exercise/office/studio/everything room — Massegee has a wall of prints and ribbons.
She took the next step and submitted three prints to the state fair photography competition.
They scored 77, 78 and 79 out of 100 possible points. To place, the photos needed a score of 80 or higher.
“But I was extremely happy with my scores. This was my very first time,” she said. “The judging process is very intimidating.”
The judges sit in a darkened room, while each photograph is placed on an easel lit by a spotlight. There is complete silence as they contemplate the image and then their scores are submitted electronically and averaged.
Massegee says LeRoy Perea, who has been judging the New Mexico State Fair Photography Exhibit for more than 20 years, urged her to enter the annual New Mexico Photographic Art Show. Perea is the founder and chairman of the show.
“The ANMPAS is all New Mexico photographers and it’s hard just to get into,” she said.
But she submitted three photographs at Perea’s urging, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“We waited a month to find out the results. I was extremely pleased. I did a little happy dance,” she said.
Her photos, along with the others juried into the show, hung for the month of December in the Fine Arts Building at Expo New Mexico.
Unlike the state fair competition, the winners of the ANMPAS aren’t told their scores, Massegee said.
“But he (LeRoy) did tell me the show is basically hung by score, with the high scores in the front room. Mine was in the front, so I kind of know,” she laughed. “LeRoy told me that there are photographers who have been trying to get into this show, into this room, for years. To do it my first year, it’s amazing.”
Massegee has also submitted three pieces for, and has been accepted, into a show called InSight, of all women photographers that is sponsored by ANMPAS.
The show is in April, again in the Fine Arts Building at Expo New Mexico. The opening reception is April 20 and the show is open to the public April 21-29.
Her work is also prominently featured at her business, Carol’s Canine Barber Shop, in Peralta.
“I’ve actually sold a lot of pieces there. The waiting area is packed with my pictures,” she said. “I’m also a member of the Belen Art League and have some pieces hanging in the gallery.”
She has shown and sold her work in the Sunflower Festival in Mountainair and will be featured in a Ruidoso Art Festival in July.
Massegee says she still has “tons and tons and tons” to learn about photography. But one of the first lessons she learned seems to be serving her well.
“No green box. I learned that from the class. I never shoot on automatic,” she said.
With the photo taking pretty much under control, Massegee is now teaching herself how to digitally enhance and manipulate her images using PhotoShop Elements.
“I have the ‘PhotoShop for Dummies’ book,” she laughed. “I would love to take a class, but it’s a matter of finding the time.”
When she first started taking pictures, Massegee said she felt that using PhotoShop was “cheating. I would just use the auto correct and leave it at that. But then I started wanting to do more.”
She said she decided to embrace PhotoShop after hearing a photographer respond to criticism about a heavily-layered photo.
“She said, ‘we’re not photojournalists, we’re artists,’” Massegee said. “That way it’s art, not just a picture. I don’t want to change the shot, I just artsy it up.”
And while the end goal of her photography isn’t to make money, Massegee says it is a thrill when someone buys one of her pictures.
“I am so pleased with the fact that they liked it enough to not only buy it, but to hang it in their home,” she said.
To help people hang her work in their homes, Massegee said she and her husband do most of the work themselves — everything from making the frames to the dry mounting to the matting, between them, they make it happen.
“That helps us keep the costs down,” she said.
Many of her pieces sell for between $65 and $75.
And Howard gets even more kudos for being a patient chauffeur, willing to climb in their Jeep and head out for a photo safari, stopping whenever his wife asks.
“He is so patient. He will stop over and over,” she said. “I guess I see the shapes. I love color, but I’ve been really drawn to black and white. Sometimes it’s hard to explain. I will want a picture of something and my husband just says, ‘Really?’ I guess you just have to see it with that passion.”
While she has mostly done landscapes, Massegee is branching out into portraits and other pictures of people.
“Trees don’t talk, people do,” she laughed. “I’m just more comfortable with the outside and trees.”
To see more of Massegee’s work, visit her website, www.cmphotographystore.com.
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