The “Beautiful LiFe” exhibit, celebrating Lake Forest through stunning black-and-white and color images, is Caitlin Saville Collins’ first experience showing her photographs as fine art.
A recent returnee to Lake Forest, Saville Collins is a member of one of the city’s oldest families. Re-settling just over two years ago with her husband in the city where generations of her family have lived for more than a century ignited a new appreciation for her hometown.
Saville Collins’ exhibit at Re-invent, a gallery located at 202 E. Wisconsin Ave. in Lake Forest, explores that experience. The show includes images the noted portrait photographer took while a student at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart (Class of 2002), where she first experimented in the dark room, to recent digital photos taken on walks through town. The exhibit will run from July 26 through Sept. 6.
Saville Collins recently spoke with The Lake Forester about growing up in Lake Forest and the role photography has played in her life. The following is an edited version of that interview:
Q: How did you get your start in photography?
A: I’ve always been involved with photography. My grandfather was always with a camera. When I was in grade school, I had a point-and-shoot film camera, nothing fancy. In high school, I started with film photography in the dark room. That’s when it took on more of a fine-art feel.
Q: What inspired you to make Lake Forest the focus of your first exhibit?
A: It wasn’t necessarily intended as a Lake Forest exhibit, but there are things from when I was in high school, when all of my projects for class ended up being Lake Forest-based. When I came back just recently, I started shooting again while I was taking walks and saw how beautiful it is. My exhibit includes some of my black-and- white images, almost all produced by me in the dark room, film and digital. It’s really the progression of photography itself as well as my progression through photography.
Q: How is the exhibit laid out?
A: There are several different sections. I have large-scale digital canvas prints, there are about 30 of those; black-and-white film I shot and developed myself in the darkroom, there are about 20 of those; then I have iPhone Instagram photos— about 200, all Lake Forest-based. Those are all 5-by-5 prints. The Instagram app produces photos in the style of a ‘70s Instamatic camera, so there’s that look, too.
Q: Which image in the exhibit is your favorite?
A: There’s one very interesting one I created in digital form, but I also have a darkroom print, as well. It’s called “Extra Angel.” Howard Van Doren Shaw was working on a project for the Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue in Chicago making angles. He ordered 14 angels from Italy, but 15 arrived. He put the extra angel on the outskirts of Ragdale (his family’s summer country home in Lake Forest). I would walk down past that angel when I was in grade school and high school. My family walked on Open Lands a lot. I would see the angel all the time. I took the picture, probably, in high school. Because the angel was made of wood, it eventually disintegrated. It’s not there any more, but I have this image.
Q: Who do you think would enjoy viewing your exhibit?
A: Many images are just beautiful images that could be taken anywhere. I have beautiful flowers that happen to have been taken in Lake Forest, but they’re beautiful flowers. There is the Lake Forest aspect, too. Hopefully I’m going to be drawing people for both the nostalgic Lake Forest part, where people will be seeing things they grew up with or see on a daily basis. But, hopefully, people who have no interaction with Lake Forest will be coming in just to see the beautiful images.
Q: Having grown up in Lake Forest and returned as an adult, you must have several spots in town you like. Which is your favorite?
A: I do love the beach. It’s such a unique place. Any time I bring someone from out of town down to the beach, they’re amazed by it. I spent quite a lot of time growing up at the beach and I spend a lot of time there now.
Q: What’s next for your fine arts photography?
A: The exhibit is up until Sept. 6. I’m enjoying the process. It’s a whole lot of fun. Professionally, I’m a portrait photographer, so I’m taking pictures constantly. I love my job, but it’s nice to go back to the roots of why I started it, doing the fine-art end. Being in the dark room reminds me of why I fell in love with photography. I’m hoping to do more gallery openings in the future.