NEW Photography Reel Features Collector Favorites

When you lead an eclectic creative life, as I do, you sometimes find you’re giving short shrift to one arena while focused on another; for example:

Taking off for four months to be in a new musical (however exhilarating and joyful) does leave less time to promote your indie novels. Pounding pavements in search of publishing opportunities for a new book (less joyful 🙂 ) does demand enough energy that street shooting can get lost in the shuffle. Staying current with current culture will often distract from the craft of art. That sort of thing. And there really are only so many hours in a damn day, despite my arguments to the contrary!

I’ve been told throughout my career that I’d be wise to streamline my focus, choose a medium and stick with it; at least come up with a theme, a brand; a niche. But for whatever reason, and for better or worse, my artistic DNA will not seem to allow it. Never has. I remain convinced that ALL of art tells a story and that’s my gig: telling stories. However I choose to tell them. Hence, the eclectic nature of it all… including my photography.

And given the need to breathe some fresh life into that part of my creative arsenal, and because this medium has been tickling my brain more in recent weeks, I put together a reel of various images that have garnered the most attention from viewers and collectors over the years. Many are personal favorites, some are new, but all reflect my endless fascination with the world around me. Click the video below to enjoy the selection.

As for my gallery at-large: while I’ve been fortunate to have my work shown in the Los Angeles Center of Photography in Hollywood, CA; Chung King Road Studio in LA’s Chinatown; in You Daily Photograph features via the Duncan Miller Gallery; at the Griffin Museum of Photography outside Boston, as well as displayed in a variety of office buildings, private businesses, and on hearths and walls of many a private home, virtual viewers can click to my site at Fine Art America to enjoy the full panoply of where my eye has taken me…

Please enjoy!

Video soundtrack: “Angel Share” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com); Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

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Art of the Book Cover: Pictures Tell the Story

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“Walking the Cambria Shore” — original photo used for back cover of AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH

Someone asked me the other day what was the singlemost reason I chose to self-publish my books. Actually, I have two reasons, which, I suppose, makes this a “doublemost” situation.

First: while I would’ve loved (I mean, seriously loved) the help of an enthusiastic literary agent and the support and heft of a publisher with name value and cultural prestige, procuring those collaborators in our ever-changing industry has become an increasingly elusive event; it certainly was for me. I gave it my all over several years then decided I had no more all to give; since I truly believed what I was doing merited further advancement, and I’d gotten to the point where I just wanted to move forward, I leapt off the indie cliff.

Think I’m still in mid-fall!

Second: I wanted control over the work I put out. Frankly, if you’re not getting the perks of industry collaboration, there has to be some kind of trade-off; one of the most phenomenal trade-offs of “doing it yourself” is controlling exactly how your work comes to fruition. For the uninitiated, this is a big thing because, with traditional publishers, items like final edit, title, and book cover are typically taken out of the hands of the author. Certainly an unknown author. Which would be me. And since I was one of the brave souls striking out independently—for better or for worse—one of the “betterest” reasons was the ability to create and produce EXACTLY the books I wanted.

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“Bene Bene” – original photo used for HYSTERICAL LOVE cover

Now, if you’re like me, a creative perfectionist who’s driven many a musician, producer, co-writer, actor, director, sound mixer, editor, or wildly opinionated drummer crazy with detailed, nuanced, and very specific standards and opinions, you’ll understand that the perk of creative control for someone like me is a boon. I’ve always believed that, if you’ve put in the time to truly learn your craft, gain your experience, hone your expertise, and bring to life a beautifully imagined story and set of characters, you deserve the power to render the final edit, pick the title, and decide on your cover art. Certainly working with professionals in the arena of editing is essential, input on titles is always illuminating, and a cover designer is a must-have, but ultimately it all comes down to YOU.

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“Street Memorial” — Original photo used for cover of “She Tumbled Down”

Which is lovely.

And a book cover, to my mind, is one of the most important elements of the final product. Why wouldn’t it be? Books truly are judged by their covers and too often the covers of self-published books are artistically lacking, poorly designed, and amateurishly rendered. Those covers then become litmus tests to the perusing and reading public, signaling to many that this writer may not have a firm grasp on professional market standards and, therefore, likely hasn’t delivered a professionally excellent book. I’m sure that’s not true in every case, but from all reports: most.

So given my bona fides as a photographer with a deep catalogue of images from which to choose—convenient, considering my preference for photographic cover art—my design process was both financially beneficial and extremely simple. Add in the fact that my cover designer is a brilliant graphic artist from Chicago, Grace Amandes, who just happens to be my sister, and it was a foregone conclusion that I’d get exactly the covers I wanted. And I did.

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AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCHwith its story of a woman who discovers on the night of her father’s funeral that he thought she was a failure, needed a female face in the background, one that reflected the mood and emotional tone of the piece. After pulling an image from my gallery—as well as finding a back cover image that illustrated another story point that takes place in Cambria, CA— I handed the images to Grace, who ultimately came back with a cover I loved: 

With HYSTERICAL LOVE, a more whimsical story about a thirty-something guy struggling to find the meaning of true love and his father’s long-lost soul mate, a through-line involving an ice cream truck became the inspiration. There was no doubt I’d be using a favorite photograph taken in my neighborhood and processed with a “selective color” concept (see original above). Grace found the exact right font and color for the title, and it has become a cover that people literally smile over. I do too!

HL front cover_indieBRAG

For “She Tumbled Down,” a short story about a tragic hit-and-run, published only in e-book, I decided to design the cover myself, trusting that, since ebooks don’t require quite the specifications of a print cover, I could pull it off. Inspired by Grace’s work, I came up with another “selective color” version of an image also taken in my neighborhood (see original above). It makes the very poignant point.

She Tumbled Down

Working in both literary and photographic mediums, I’ve discovered my general thrust as an artist is, quite simply, storytelling. Whether visual, literal, or musical, the narrative I see and feel impels the work forward, and so it has been a natural marriage between words and images in bringing my books to happily imagined life…a result that makes all the challenges and occasional indignities of self-publishing all the more easy to forgive!

To view my photography galleries at Fine Art America click HERE.

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

THIS Photography Gallery Is Open 24/7

 

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– Cordoba, Spain: Courtyard Vigil

I was delighted to have been included in the SKY exhibit at Duncan Miller Gallery’s “one day at a time” site, YourDailyPhotograph.com. It’s considered quite a prestigious selection, and there was particular honor in being chosen by the jury curator, Paula Tognarelli of the Griffin Museum of Photography. She knows her stuff and having her recognize one of my piece, Sky Reflected, Lisbon, as exhibit-worthy was no small thing!

– Sky Reflected, Lisbon

BUT. While the 24-hour time limit is fun in a sort of “5-star food truck sending out Tweets to announce where it’ll be parked on Tuesday” kind of way, the dependable, always-open element of my photography site at Fine Art America is notable for its more sustaining presence! So I wanted to take this opportunity, to remind my readers, my viewers, that beyond writing blogs, books, articles and songs, I am also one who’s inspired by the Muse of Visual Art in the form of photography. And my work, work I love and share with love, is available for easy viewing and collecting at my site at FAA. 24/7. No Tweets required!

I’m always posting new pieces, so come by at your leisure, stroll through the many eclectic galleries, and if something resonates, feel free to leave a comment, a like, a share, or even, hallelujah, a purchase. Believe me, I love that sort of thing! 🙂

Click here any time: LDW @ Fine Art America. 

Enjoy and… thank you!!

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Selfies, Phone Cameras, and the Etiquette of Photography

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I love cameras. I’ve had one most of my life and have always appreciated its facility in chronicling my best adventures in pictures, some of which I’ve had since childhood.  Now as a professional photographer viewing the art and craft of photography from an even more analytical perspective, I feel as attached to my beloved Canon as anyone could to any inanimate object. Its weight, its glass, its technical ease and brilliance that captures what my eye sees in ways that can take even my own breath away. I’ve traveled the world with it and regardless of time, place, or rugged terrain, it’s slung around my neck, at the ready to grab something unmissable. The wonders of photography are many and never-ending.

Then there’s phone cameras. Camera phones. Cell cameras. Whatever. Which have spawned the selfie. Those damned, ubiquitous selfies. The constant shooting and posting of phone photos taken from that oh-so-familiar “hand up in the air” POV that does odd things to most faces, is almost always horribly lit, and creates a visual world where everyone’s perspective ends at the length of their arm. Selfies have a certain detached, unconnected look about them (as opposed to photos in which a photographer and subject are communicating with each other), that often makes them soulless and self-conscious. Certainly they have their place (Ellen’s Oscar selfie that broke the Internet was all in good fun), but beyond the “fun” aspect, there’s something narcissistic about the incessant posting and reposting of these images, to the point that it seems no one exists and nothing can happen without someone slapping it up on Facebook. Or maybe that is the fear: did it happen, do I exist, am I pretty enough, am I even seen much less pretty enough if my selfie, my profile pics, my endless supply of face-shots, are not posted on social media? It’s exhausting being young sometimes…

I remember having a similar youthful fixation on my looks, my hair, my clothes, my ass; always ready to catch a glimpse in a mirror or window, checking the status of various body parts and sartorial accoutrement as I walked into a room or down a street sure that everyone was profoundly interested in ME… what I looked like, how cute I was, if I was flirt-worthy. Of course, back when I was that kind of young we didn’t have phone cameras (thank God!) and the idea of taking pictures of oneself with a small 35mm was ridiculous. Unless you meant to be ridiculous or you were taking a self-portrait in lieu of new head shots you couldn’t afford (of course that never worked). Youth, presumably because of its evolutionary urge to procreate, is fixated on appearing and being seen as attractive, so the fundamental need to exert oneself in putting forth that image, and making sure everyone else notices, is understandable. If we’d had Facebook and Instagram back when I was a kid I might have found reason to post myself all over the place, too. Or maybe not… there’s still something about the narcissism angle that gets me (though you wouldn’t guess that from the pic below of me at 20!).

LDW @ 20

But beyond selfies and youth is the more general etiquette of taking and posting pictures of anyone online. This has become an issue fraught with some misguided principles, enough so that I’d like to suggest a few pertinent guidelines that apply to every age group, in every circumstance. Pay heed and you’ll find fewer people scrambling when you walk into a room with your phone!

Top 5 Rules of Phone Camera/Social Media Posting Etiquette:

1. BE AWARE THAT NOT EVERYONE WANTS THEIR PICTURE TAKEN.

Particularly on a bad day, in bad lighting, after weight’s been gained, or just because, well, they don’t want their picture taken. Don’t assume it’s your God-given right to take another person’s picture just because you want to. Don’t do the “oh, come on, you look great!!” routine when Aunt Helen really isn’t feeling up to it. Any good photographer knows the best posed pictures happen when people have acquiesced rather than been browbeaten… and, once they’ve acquiesced, are given the time to fix their hair, freshen their lipstick, suck in their gut, or get out of the shadowed light. If they still don’t want their picture taken after all that, DON’T TAKE IT. Period.

2. REALIZE NOT EVERYONE WANTS THEIR PICTURE POSTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

Even if someone agrees to pose for a picture – alone, with a group, with you – that doesn’t automatically mean they want said picture plastered all over social media. It’s become so routine to post every single picture taken that the people doing the snapping and posting don’t always consider the privacy preferences of their subjects. ASK. If you want to post a group shot, check with everyone before you part ways to make sure they’re okay with that. A quick, “If I get some good shots here I’ll probably post a few on Facebook… everyone OK with that?” works. Typically people are, but show them the courtesy of asking. Particularly people who aren’t young, aren’t necessarily enamored with their looks, and aren’t accustomed to posting selfies all over the place!

3. DON’T POST PICTURES THAT MAKE PEOPLE LOOK BAD. 

This should be a given but I’m always surprised at the carelessness of what some people post online. As a photographer (and a subject!), I know the self-consciousness that many feel about having their picture taken and I also know how affirming it can be when a good shot is achieved. In fact, a good photo can boost someone’s self-esteem as much as a bad one can drop it. Be aware that most phone cameras – even the good ones – don’t do well in low light indoors; if you are not a photographer and don’t know how to use Photoshop or other post-production software to enhance or improve a shot, don’t use it. But if you do decide to post your phone pics of other people “as-is,” you are obligated by etiquette to take the time to choose the very best one. Post whatever you want of yourself, but when you’re putting up photos of others, don’t put up that one that was shot in deeply shadowed light, glaring sun, or too dark a room. Don’t put up the one where the subject looks bad because they blinked, their hair was weird, or the angle was unattractive. Don’t choose to post a group shot where you look great but everyone else looks horrible. Have some consideration, some empathy, and realize NO ONE WANTS A CRAPPY PICTURE OF THEMSELVES ON THE INTERNET!!

4. NOT EVERY EVENT NEEDS TO BE MEMORIALIZED BY YOUR PHONE CAMERA.

It used to be you could meet a few friends for lunch, grab a movie with former colleagues, go over to your Mom’s for dinner and no one felt compelled to whip out a camera to “grab the moment.” Somehow we all managed to hold onto memories of lesser moments in life (versus bigger ones like weddings, birthdays, christenings, etc.) without having to collect a bunch of (usually crappy) photos that someone is sure to post online. One could say it’s curmudgeonly to complain about anyone wanting to capture camaraderie and companionship with a camera, but goddammit, sometimes you just want to eat your Niçoise without someone snapping away while you’re chewing tuna. Personally, I could do with fewer of those, thank you.

5. CONSIDER POSTING MORE OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND FEWER OF YOUR SELFIES.

It’s no small wonder we live in a culture obsessed with youth, beauty, cosmetic surgery, thinness, sexual voracity, and so on. It’s we the people who are driving that train! We can complain all we want about what “the media” and the “entertainment business” have done to perpetuate certain unrealistic standards, but if you really analyze the chicken/egg aspect, it’s hard to find the line when even every-day folk are obsessed with their beauty, youthfulness, thinness, etc. How many times do we see mostly women, but some men, too, cycle and recycle their profile pics, while friends do their part by exclaiming with each picture change, “You’re SO gorgeous!”… “What a hottie!”… “You’ve never been more beautiful!”… “Hubba hubba!” (all comments I’ve seen online!)? It’s great to occasionally get a compliment on your looks – who doesn’t appreciate that? – and sometimes you have, in fact, just innocently changed your picture, it posts on the Newsfeed, and friends comment without any intent on your part to elicit that response. But in far too many cases it is about the attention, the requisite comments that feed the need. And we get it; you’re hot, you’re beautiful, you’re sexy. But tell me, was there anything you created or accomplished today that might trump that shot of you in a bikini? Yes, you look great, but I’d be more interested in hearing about the grant you wrote, that song you finished, the Little League team you’re coaching…

75. Quite Pleased With Her Collar

Now, don’t get me wrong; there are categories of posted photos I always love. People’s travel pics, fine art photography, baby pictures, family shots, even that dog with the frilly collar. Gorgeous road trips, the weekend at the recording studio, that last location of your indie shoot are all seriously post-worthy. Your Hawaiian hike, that tour of historical architecture in Venice, the shots of your urban neighborhood will likely enchant me. I’m less interested in your lunch or whatever you mixed up at the wet bar, but if there is something creative in either of these, post away.

The point is: Think about it. Don’t just shoot and post. The fact that everyone now has a camera in their hands demands that we be more thoughtful and considerate about how we approach the matter of taking and posting pictures. Get creative, look beyond the reach of your arm, and have both empathy and consideration. I promise I will never post a crappy picture of you and I’m expecting you to extend the same courtesy to me… because, believe me; that promise gets more important as we get older and facial symmetry gets less and less dependable! 🙂

Selfies Guide To Men @ Dashburst

LDW @ 20 photo from the Lonnie & the Lugnutz files.

Frilly dog courtesy of me. 

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

May I Introduce My Other Muse?

We each come into this world with a penchant, an inclination; a psychic nuance that gets under our skin, drives our goals and, simply put, makes us really happy. The list is long of those many things that inspire and clearly it’s a very personal thing. What incites creativity, passion and ambition in one can be a complete flatline for another. It’s as individual as a fingerprint. A snowflake. That dish my friend Lotta makes that no one’s ever been able to figure out.

For me it was the creative arts. Always. I don’t know why. I could point to the lack of TV in my youth and childhood – and the books, music and art that filled the gap – but, frankly, my younger sibs who did not do without are just as artistically inclined and they were definitely Children of the TV (similar to Children of the Corn only in that their eyes are a bit large). Perhaps our penchants are pre-programmed. A carry-over from a previous life (if you believe such things). Certainly they’re influenced by parents who, in my case, were passionate about the arts, injecting them at every turn, convinced that even rearranging the living room was an expression of the creative mind. It is, Mom; I agree. And thank you, both, for your fine contribution to my artistic journey.

So armed with my many Muses who kept me company throughout an eclectic life, I happily bandied in a bevy of mediums, even past the point when others tried to convince me to “pick one and stick with it.” Creative monogamy, so to speak. But I had arrived in LA pumped by youthful years of writing, acting and singing, poised to take it all on in this fine creative mecca, so I chafed at the notion of exclusivity. Seemed so…exclusive. Still, I was a naive and eager young lass, addicted to my ambition and ultimately easily swayed, so I threw aside my concerns and did just that; I chose acting, forsaking all others like a good, faithful spouse, convinced that by committing to only one Muse I would certainly conjure its success into being.

Yeah. That worked.

Don’t get me wrong, I had loads of fun as an actress but ultimately fell out of love, particularly after it was clear that a viable career was not to be had and, it turns out, I really didn’t care all that much. Mostly I missed the other Muses. I remember telling my manager at the time, after five years of acting fidelity, that I missed music and wanted to get back to it and he literally laughed in my face. Seriously, he laughed. His perspective of me was so narrow that rather than explore a new path and its many possibilities, he presumed I was a deluded little dilettante. Big fat tipping point, that laugh. I dumped him, quit my acting class, threw out all my vapid 8×10’s and spent the next decade or so deliriously happy as a singer in a rock n’ roll band. And a writer. And a taker of pictures. All of it. Even some damn acting. My creative harem. Welcome home.

As I see it, this business of artistic monogamy is foolishness. Fidelity is for marriage, not art. Do what you love, do everything you love, and if you do it well, all the better…share it. Yes, I know the world is now saturated with loads of purported artists in every genre who do not do it well, whatever it is in this age of immediate and ubiquitous shallow-stardom, but if they enjoy it, enjoy away. We don’t have to pay attention and perhaps over time they’ll weary of the exercise. One can hope.

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Anyway, this is a long, roundabout way of introducing you to a particular Muse I’ve been deeply involved with for many years but have kept close to the vest for various reasons. While I’ve done session for family, friends and artists; have prints hanging on a few office walls and on various websites, this has been a somewhat stealth pursuit. No particular reason other than, as I viewed the many talented professionals attempting to build their photography businesses in a unfathomably competitive market, sorting out how to monetize the craft as I performed it eluded me. So I just took pictures and learned some worthy skills in the meantime. But after years of shooting, more requests for prints, a growing number of calls for sessions, I decided it was time to come out of the creative closet and throw this, too, into the mix that is my creative life.

Friends, meet my other Muse; Photography, meet the gang.

mezquita-arches_smThough you’re just meeting, I’ve actually been shooting pictures for most of my life.  For whatever reason, the idea of visually chronicling the journey was as natural as blinking an eye….and this was before Smart Phones and Facebook! I had a crappy little camera I took everywhere and I have many of those pictures still. They’re amateur and silly and some are as crappy as the camera taking them, but the eye was there, the composition was good and, bottom line, they are responsible for inciting my interest. It’s only been in the last couple of decades, however, that the passion to do it well became a pull. In fact, there was some regret that I hadn’t actually taken it more seriously earlier on…damn if I didn’t find the whole darkroom ritual of lights and chemicals and magically appearing images a romantic one! In fact, if I hadn’t rushed headlong into the performing arts I’ve always said I would have either been a professional photographer or a zoologist. Seriously. Either one. Primates or pictures.

2-baby-in-a-flower-field_smBut given my lack of aptitude for the sciences, photography, albeit peripherally, was at least able to come along on the ride – as much as possible given the limits of time and money. And though that first crappy camera held me in good stead for many years, it was when my mother-in-law bought me my first good Canon 35mm about 20 years ago that my world changed. Suddenly the pictures in my mind’s eye translated to paper. I began viewing things from the perspective of frame and light. Even when I didn’t have the camera, I was like Pam in The Office wedding episode snapping invisible pictures of perfect moments. I learned that the excitement of capturing an image of true beauty or amazing candor was as exhilarating as belting a killer song or writing that brilliant paragraph. I was hooked. And when the digital revolution exploded with all its heady possibilities, I took a leap of faith, invested in a top line Canon DLSR, a couple of stellar professional lenses and have been in a solid relationship with the Muse ever since.

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I have great respect for technicians but I am not one. Perfection of skill and deep, expansive knowledge of the science of photography belong to those who made it their business to prioritize learning the technology from the ground up. For me, Multi-Muse Gal, learning the craft and technique of photography has been a slow, steady process of personal experimentation, research, book and hands-on learning. My education has been mostly instinctual, with excellent tutelage and guidance from renowned, respected photographers and teachers along the way. I studied printmaking with a master printmaker, learned camera basics from a Canon specialist and, particularly in the last three years, worked with a noted photographer and designer for whom I shot countless photos, did digital processing and printing, as well as extensive restoration and repair of older, damaged files. I learned a tremendous amount by the sheer action of doing it and what has evolved through all of this is the skill I have and my particular style of visual storytelling, examples of which have found their way onto my site (and some in this article!).

I chose the pictures I did for the site galleries because, simply…I love them. I have my favorites, certainly, but I love them all. Not to sound childish but they make me happy and represent amazing experiences in which I participated. Some depict historical places that took my breath away, some are those decisive moments in real life captured in a flash of serendipity; others are simple beauty or sweetness with no other explanation, and some are stories I wanted to tell or people who grabbed my eye. A few are even technically dubious but exude something unique or special in a way that won them a spot on the site despite their flaws. It’s a collection that speaks loudly to how I see the world and I happen to like what it has to say.

I truly hope you also enjoy the statement.  There are over 600 photos posted on the site so don’t attempt to view them all in one sitting. Take the time to enjoy them in incremental visits when you can freshly view each gallery. I promise it’s a more enjoyable experience that way and I’ll be adding new things from time to time anyway!

And beyond the sharing of creativity, I chose Fine Art America, the company hosting the site, because they have streamlined the process of printmaking and that, after all, is part of the goal here: to inspire you to order prints for yourself, your friends, your office; your gift giving. Because ultimately I realized the way I could best monetize my craft was simply to shoot what I love and then put it somewhere where others could access it and, hopefully, find a piece or two they’d like for their living room. Or the kitchen at Grandma’s. Or that space in the den that always looks so bare. Should you wish a print, a photographic Christmas or holiday gift, a box of cards or a canvas of any one of these photographs, I would be honored.  Fine Art America makes it easy to get the commerce done so click the link below and go commerce a little…my Muse and I will thank you.

But whatever you do, first and foremost, enjoy!

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LorraineDevonWilke: Fine Art Photography

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All photos courtesy of Lorraine Devon Wilke

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Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.