Sarah Gelfand | Staff Writer
Elmore DeMott transforms Chautauqua’s picturesque landscapes and architecture into elegant photographs that serve not only to please the eye but to please Chautauqua as well.
DeMott takes fine art photographs of Chautauqua, the sale of which benefits the Chautauqua Fund.
A native of Montgomery, Ala., DeMott discovered photography during college. She double majored in math and fine arts at Vanderbilt University; after college, she worked in banking for several years until she decided to focus on her children. Her interests slowly shifted back toward arts, and she became the executive director of the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts. Following her role there, DeMott decided to take up photography seriously again.
“Sure, as a mom, I was taking pictures,” DeMott said, “But it’s really been within the last four years that I have been taking pictures with more of an artist’s eye than with a mother’s eye.”
DeMott and her husband, Miles, who is a writer, visited Chautauqua for the first time 12 years ago. They return every season with their daughters, Mary Elmore and Anne Miles, who are 13 and 11, respectively.
“In some ways, (photographing Chautauqua) is a challenge because this is a place that’s so photographed,” DeMott said. “How can I, as an artist, make it different? So, really, in part, it’s a great challenge, and I enjoy that. Each person has their own eye; I think it’s my math major that comes out because I like very clean, simple things and shapes and lines and a strong contrast of dark and light.”
Last season, DeMott started selling her Chautauqua photographs at the Strohl Art Center shop. Social networking and Facebook have largely contributed to her success, including her introduction to the Chautauqua art world. About a year ago, Eileen Petre, who runs the Strohl Art Center shop, came across DeMott’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/ElmoreDemottPhotography, which she frequently updates during the summer with photographs she takes of Chautauqua. Soon, DeMott’s work was selling in the Strohl Art Center shop.
The photographs are sold at retail price in the shop, and a part of the proceeds inevitably is filtered into Institution funds. DeMott, however, also fulfills custom orders, allowing customers to choose certain finishes — including metal prints and gallery blocks — or filters. In the case of these custom sales, DeMott donates a portion of the proceeds directly to the Chautauqua Fund.
“I am saying ‘thank you’ to Chautauqua as a place of beauty and also to the inspiration that it gives to so many,” DeMott said.
Shooting regularly around the grounds, DeMott said her favorite place to photograph changes daily.
“It’s whatever I shoot tomorrow,” DeMott said. “My camera tends to lead me. I may set out with a certain thing in mind, and I never know where it’s going to take me.”
Extending her photographs to something beyond mere aesthetics, DeMott has made her connection to Chautauqua more meaningful.
“The reason for wanting to support the Chautauqua Fund is that this is a place that’s enriched in the arts, and I feel like as an artist, it fills my soul,” DeMott said. “So for me to then be able to turn it around and make a gift to the Chautauqua Fund and encourage the arts is something that’s important to me.”
For those looking for a personally significant and innovative way to invest in Chautauqua, DeMott has only words of encouragement.
“Each person has different gifts,” DeMott said. “I think about Herb (Keyser) and his lemon tarts; he does the tarts, and that’s what he chose for him. I love to take pictures, so that’s what makes this work for me. You know, there are kids who play violin in the plaza who will have a little note saying they will give money to the Chautauqua Fund. Find what it is you enjoy doing, and remember to give back to the place that has nourished you.”