LACONIA — Photography can capture the nuances as well as the obvious in a scene. It is the joy of showing viewers a different way to see the world that photographer Joe Sack is after.
Sack said it is “nice to show others the beauty of how the environment is put together in all its delight and complications.”
This might seem a lofty artistic goal, but Sack is modest about the images he captures with his camera. He has few pretentions, and is a quiet, reflective person who says he is not really an artist but got into photography because he was curious.
This month an exhibit of Sack’s photos is on display at the Belknap Mill’s first-floor gallery in Laconia. At the show, viewers can see up-close the wondrous world Sack has captured with his camera and the artistic way it is presented. From a head shot of a little child wearing a bold striped hat and staring directly at the viewer with an innocent gaze, to elephants in the forest, their trunks creating a vivid composition as they rise to the skies above, each photo beckons the viewer to look at the world in a different way. In the way Sack sees it, no matter the place or the subject.
Originally from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Sack attended Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins University with a strong background in medicine. Sack and his wife, Diana, went to Alaska open to the idea of staying there but changed their minds over the course of three years living in the state. Their plans changed and with Sacks’ love of skiing, the couple made the move to New England. They eventually settled in Laconia. “We’ve been in Laconia about 43 years,” says Sack. “It’s a nice place to live.”
When Sack was tasked by Johns Hopkins, some years ago, to do high-level work at a London university, he began to see how many wonderful things there were in England to photograph. He started to take photos and brought the images back to Johns-Hopkins and they were impressed. Sack had his own darkroom at the time, and he did well at a photography exhibit held at the university.
Travel has added to the Sacks’ lives, at first simply to see the world. But as Sack discovered a love of photography, it intensified their travels to unusual places such as Africa, Italy, and other places around the world.
When digital cameras came into existence, Sack’s world grew as a photographer. He did not have to spend a lot of time in the darkroom any longer but could print digitally at home or at the New England College Institute of Art & Design (in Manchester), where he takes classes and prints on a large scale machine at the school.
“With digital photography, I can change the way I want things to look and there is no argument with the result. The ability it gives me is delightful,” Sack said.
He explains his love of photography, according to his website (www.joesackphotos.com), “Photography adds to my enjoyment of life. It makes me focus on what I see. It adds nuance to even my everyday sights. I try to capture this richness in my photographs. Studying art, photographic history, and even Photoshop adds to the choices I have of how to display what I have seen.”
A few years ago, when the pandemic hit, the Sacks found they were restricted in travel. Instead of putting photography aside, Sack began to look at the world in his home territory, and it opened new avenues. He said, “The pandemic certainly brought challenges. I am careful of what I am photographing. I continue to look at what’s happening around me and it is my hope to discover something worth the time and effort I put into my photographs.”
For example, Sack caught a view of Canada geese in his neighborhood after a rainstorm and was attracted to photographing them for the beauty they brought to the world.
Set to the monumental task of choosing photographs for the current Belknap Mill exhibit, Sack explained, “I have thousands of images and I chose the ones I most felt made me stop and think about what I was seeing.”
The work certainly accomplishes that goal and it’s all about the unique and breathtaking beauty of the world, from a child to the up-close, weathered face of a man in contemplation, to a ski lift, suspended over a snowy mountain or a pattern of stripes on a zebra.
“It also has been good to take some workshops at the New England College Institute of Art and Design,” he said. “I go there to learn new techniques. They are good at showing me, for example, how to use darks and lights in my photography to bring out the panoramic and the contrast in images.”
Although a lot of Sack’s photographs are originally taken in color, he enjoys converting many of them to black-and-white for the contours and the boldness that can be shown in each image.
The Sacks said they look forward to resuming their travels and experiencing the wonders of the world. “I want to capture the essence of a place,” Sack said. “To do this, I will continue to observe the world around me.”
Located at 25 Beacon Street East in downtown Laconia, the Joe Sack photography exhibit is open through the month of June from Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If traveling from a distance to visit the Belknap Mill and the exhibit, please call ahead to confirm at 603-524-88138. Visit belknapmill.org or joesackphotos.com for more.