New Photography Exhibit of TN Wildlife and Landscapes

From Krishna Adams, Director of Visual Arts, Craft, Media, and Design –

Becky Ross McRae: Tennessee Wildlife and Landscapes
August 5–September 30, 2022

Online Talk with Photographer Becky Ross McRae
Wednesday, August 31 at 11 a.m. Central
RSVP here.

The Tennessee Arts Commission’s current exhibit showcases the work of the talented photographer Becky Ross McRae. An experienced visual artist, she also paints and draws in various mediums and creates wildlife sculptures in wood and bronze. Her art training gives her photographs a unique flair. The photography exhibit highlights her portraits of Tennessee’s backyard.

From early recollections of kindergarten, McRae was attracted to and excelled in creating art. She also realized by the 5th grade that she wanted to become a teacher, just like her mother. As an art educator, McRae would remind her students that “Creativity is the spice of life – it’s in everything we do daily, from the clothes we choose to wear, the meals we cook and present, the way we arrange our furniture, your plant choices in the yard, to your choice of music, books, and entertainment.”

 Always interested in the creative process of art in various mediums, McRae was interested in photography but was afraid of the technology involved with digital cameras. After retiring from Memphis City Schools a little over 15 years ago, she was finally able to take the time to combine her love of travel and nature with learning how to use a digital camera.

Becky Ross McRae

“Though I have traveled the world in search of images which will inspire others to the joys of lifelong learning, curiosity, and creativity, this collection of photos for the Tennessee Arts Commission exhibition were taken here right in good old Tennessee, some in my own backyard as well as all three parts of this wonderfully versatile state.”–McRae

Fortunately for McRae, her experience as an artist made the composition of photographic images second nature. When asked about her techniques, McRae explained that there is a lot of sitting and waiting in place for the right light and activity to get a solid photo. Sometimes she will even patiently sit in a blind, hidden from the observant eyes of animals, hoping for a perfect photographic moment. On a photo gathering trip, McRae will focus the lens to highlight textural differences between a soft background and the subject matter, hoping that the image leads the viewer to look deeper.

Curious Red Fox, digital photograph

When touring her home, there is no doubt that the fox is McRae’s animal of choice. Since her 20s, McRae has been increasingly fascinated by foxes and has photographed them at every opportunity. Curious Red Fox exemplifies McRae’s use of a soft background contrasting the sharpness of the textured fur and light shining from the eye. If you examine the eye up close, you might even see a tiny reflection of McRae. Click here for more stunning images from the exhibition.

Photo selection is a meticulous part of the process, with about one out of every 100 images making the cut. The angle of a head, light in an eye, and the animal’s pose all add to the fine tuning that makes a compelling image. McRae believes in enhancing a photo to its highest quality by utilizing programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop when needed. She warns that it is easy to overwork an image, so you have to know when it still has the look of believability without being overprocessed.

When asked for advice for budding photographers, McRae says, “Experiment, know what your equipment is capable of, and practice as much as you can. Read books on photography and join a photo club.”

A long-time member of Bartlett Art Association, Artist’s Link, and MidSouth Art League, she has been named Photographer of the Year multiple times through the Memphis Camera Club. Commissioned under past Mayor William H. Howick of Lakeland (between Bartlett and Arlington in west Tennessee), McRae created the original Lakeland City Seal.

McRae’s photographs are in several private collections. Her work has been exhibited in WKNO, Saint Francis Hospital Bartlett, Memphis Botanic Garden, Lakeland City Hall, Nixon Askew Ferguson, Memphis College of Art, Christian Brothers University, Memphis City Hall, Memphis Public Library, and others. She has also had gallery representation in New York City and has a permanent exhibition of her nature photos at Reelfoot Visitor Center in Northwest Tennessee.

A lifelong learner, McRae continues to seek teachable moments in her appreciation for nature and art. During the past two years, the hassle of air travel was a bit daunting. As restrictions begin to lift, her travel and photographic goals include going to Iceland to experience the Northern Lights. You can see more of her work on her website.