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Photo by Dante Fontana
Janis Arnell stumbled into photography back in 2000 when a friend gave her the gift of a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera for Christmas.
Not having the patience to sit and read the included instructions, Arnell simply began taking pictures. After enrolling in a beginning photography class at Sierra College to formally learn technique, she instantly fell in love.
“There’s something about the blend of art and technology that fascinates me,” says Arnell. “Just because you’ve mastered the art side, the technology part is still a challenge.” She therefore continued her education at the El Dorado Center of Folsom Lake College. Having learned to shoot using traditional film, Arnell since uses digital but remembers fondly her time spent in the darkroom. She once even entertained the idea of building her own darkroom at home. “I love seeing an image emerge out of the darkness,” Arnell says. “Time passes so quickly, but with photography I’m in the moment.”
Arnell’s current fascinations include capturing the surprised faces of her young granddaughter as she discovers life around her, as well as images that tell an aspect of a relationship, such as mother to daughter or components in a chess match.
In her day job as a first grade teacher at Louisiana Schnell School, Arnell experienced firsthand how the arts can therapeutically heal in the weeks following the murder of Principal Sam LaCara. With everyone left wondering why such a tragedy happened and how they could move forward, the school sent their staff on an equine therapy outing. Not having picked up her camera in weeks, Arnell was inspired to capture the interaction between the gentle horses and her colleagues and began clicking away. “It felt really good,” says Arnell. “I’m not rigid; I shoot whatever catches my interest, and I guess I take pictures of things that touch my soul.”
Arnell, who always takes her camera when she’s out hiking or spending time outdoors, never sets out with a particular idea in mind, so relies a lot on impulse. Attracted to earth tones, it’s often pops of color found in nature that are the focus of her images.
To date, she has displayed her work locally in three shows with friend and fellow photographer Irene Lipshin at the Cozmic Café. The collections featured images from her trips to Vietnam and Mexico as well as one with a “children of the world” theme. When she travels, she loves to illustrate the contrast in cultures through her photography.
Planning her retirement in a few years, Arnell is looking forward to having more time to dedicate to her passion of capturing moments. Also on the agenda, an increased effort at marketing her work, as well as doing shows in the Bay Area where her daughter resides. “It’s just flat out fun,” says Arnell. “There are so many facets to photography; I don’t think [I’ll] ever get bored.”