Carolyn Thome has been interested in photography since high school, but it was a 50th birthday present from her husband –– a personal studio for her to use on whatever she desired ––  that set her down the path of pursuing fine art photography in adulthood.

Carloyn’s love of mushrooms and the natural world at large merges with her passion for photographing small things up close. In doing so, she captures the essence and unique character of objects the rest of us may initially overlook. She creates a striking image by suspending her subjects against a black backdrop –– mushrooms, feathers, cacti, florals and other found objects.

She shares the complete journey of her interest in art, from grade school drawings to current experimental photography methods, and why she finds her time at the Celebration of Fine Art so enjoyable.

How did you get started in art?

I drew in grade school through high school and took some darkroom photography classes in high school. Then I went to art school and studied industrial design with a second major in photography. There I did a lot of shooting with large-format cameras and color darkroom work, which was a lot of fun.

How has your art evolved over the years?

I’ve been taking photos all my life. When I turned 50, my husband’s gift was to build me a studio. So I had a space all outfitted just for me. I could make my own mess. I didn’t have to clean it up so he could do his work. It was a great gift. 

At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do painting or photography, and I just kept doing photography. The building of my new studio coincided with me getting obsessed with mushroom hunting. I started to bring the mushrooms home and wanted to photograph them –– they’re just so beautiful and diverse. 

I started with the mushrooms and then evolved to printing on metal. That’s when I started this shooting on a black background, really making the images pop. I still shoot mushrooms, but I’m also shooting other things right now, too.

What is most challenging about your process?

Lighting is the most challenging thing. Sometimes it happens really quickly, and sometimes it doesn’t. I try different lighting. I look at the images, I figure out if it’s what I’m going for. And then I go back and reshoot it and reshoot it and reshoot it until I get the lighting right.

What would you tell someone who has never been to the Celebration of Fine Art?

It’s a nice community. We have a hundred artists here who are really good, and we all get along. We help each other out. This show also brings in a lot of great buyers and great non-buyers –– interesting people to meet and talk to.