Photographer makes the familiar new again
May 31, 2011
By Sean Beighton
If you asked LeRoy LaCelle four years ago whether his photographs would provide soothing images to patients at a clinic or a new hospital, he’d probably ask: “What photographs?”
Now LaCelle, a retired industrial designer, has made a name for himself as one of the premier nature photographers on the Eastside. He has four photos on display at Swedish’s clinic in Redmond. He has made an Issaquah restaurant into his own gallery. And five images have been chosen for the new Swedish hospital, which opens in the Issaquah Highlands in July.
And it’s all because he got bored one day and started playing with a camera.
“I showed some pictures to some people and they said, ‘You should do something with this,’” said LaCelle, who retired in 2003. “My first venture was the Issaquah Farmers Market.”
When LaCelle opened his booth at the market he was an immediate hit. His work caught the eye of clients like Sean Quinn, owner of The Flat Iron Grill in Issaquah.
“I only have so many walls,” Quinn said. “He keeps going out there and he knows what I want. Eventually, I’m going to run out of wall space for him.”
Quinn said he loves that LaCelle’s photographs provide viewers with a calming yet mysterious vibe.
“The most fun I’ve had with it is people trying to guess what it is,” Quinn the location regarding the locations of the photos.
Nearly all of LaCelle’s images at The Flat Iron Grill are of nature destinations in Western Washington. He prides himself on his readiness to take a picture at a moment’s notice. Timing means everything to LaCelle.
“Everywhere I go I have two cameras, six lenses, a tripod and a backpack,” he said. “The only thing I don’t have is a wetsuit.”
Lori Asmus, Swedish’s Redmond clinic administrator, said the clinic wanted to show off photography from local artists. It was referred to LaCelle through the Swedish Art Committee.
“Swedish is very sensitive to the emotions of people in the hospital, to calm them and make them feel comfortable,” LaCelle said.
Swedish Medical Center opened the Redmond facility in December. They needed soothing artwork for their patients and LaCelle provided it. Now, the Redmond facility owns several of LaCelle’s pieces, all of which were taken in Washington state. The photographs feature a variety of landscapes and nature. For example, one picture hones in on a cluster of maple leaves, colored in orange, yellow and brown.
The Flat Iron Grill plans on turning one of LaCelle’s photographs into a 3-D metallic relief. Quinn will dedicate an entire wall at his restaurant to the relief. A metal artist will create the work.
“He’s done a great job and his passion for it has been incredible.”
The artworks Swedish will put in the highlands hospital will be on display for the hospital’s open house July 12.
LaCelle still participates in the Issaquah Farmers Market. However, he is gone some weekends in search of his next epic picture.
Sean Beighton is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.