Dancing with the camera 

Whistler photographer Leanna Rathkelly wins provincial award for her photo, We Come in Peace

By Nicole Fitzgerald

The photograph was a rare one.

It was one of those gorgeous September afternoons in Whistler. Local photographer Leanna Rathkelly picked up her then 11-year-old daughter from school for a ramble around Lost Lake. The two snapped away looking for interesting images on the sun-filled late afternoon.

Their two long shadows playing out on the sand in the golden light of late summer caught her attention — as well as the Fine Art Trophy at the 2007 Professional Photographers’ Association of B.C.’s Provincial Print Competition last month.

Her winning photo, We Come in Peace, is one of two Rathkelly images now displayed in the Provincial Print Salon.

“I found the image bold because I don’t know of any photographer, amateur or professional, who hasn’t used shadows as subject matter somewhere along the line,” said photo judge Ron Buzikievich. “This image of common subject matter is handled uncommonly well. The composition is strong and daring with the subjects anchored to the bottom edge of the image — generally a compositional no-no… The Charlie-Chaplinish pose of the aliens and the simplicity of the image elements makes it refreshing and easy to enjoy.”

Joy was at the heart of the image.

“I do a lot of assignment work as a hired photographer, so when I get out to play with the camera, it is kind of an opportunity for me to see things in a different way than I normally would,” Rathkelly said.

Imagination and being able to bring out the magic in the every day are two contributing talents that have led to Rathkelly producing professional photography in Whistler for 22 years.

From a standard massage image brightened with the glow of candlelight for a spa advertisement to the grandeur of Lost Lake’s T-shaped dock draped in mountain vistas for the Whistler public art banner series, Rathkelly aims to capture the lifestyle her mountain town affords.

After working in a portrait studio in Calgary, the outdoor reveler headed west and found herself greeting other snow hounds as a Whistler liftie. She soon signed on as a staff photographer at the Question newspaper, then progressed into more freelance work as an advertising photographer for organizations such as Tourism Whistler, Whistler-Blackcomb and the Canadian Tourism Commission. Family and wedding portraiture as well as   architecture photography followed, along with the establishment of her own company, which distributes stock imagery all over North America. Visit leannarathkelly.com to view more of her images that have graced the pages of publications such as Canadian Geographic , British Columbia Magazine and the Financial Post .

“I tend to shoot things that are fairly joyous and with lots of emotion,” said the Whistler Photographic Society founder. “I really like looking for the relationships between people and how they interact with each other as well, whether doing portfolio or advertisement.”

While the local loves sharing Whistler culture with the rest of the world, she now wants to travel the globe through her lens.

“I love being in Whistler, but I would like to do a little more travel over the next year,” she said. “I am going to Italy for a month. I see myself going through the world and photographing cultures all over the world.”

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