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Sue Bloom is the retired chair of the McDaniel Department of Art and History. She taught there for 34 years and chaired the department for 19 years.

Bloom had come from a drawing, painting and printmaking background. When she first graduated from college she taught at both West and East Middle Schools in Westminster. Bloom stayed home with her children when they were small. She took commissions and did court room illustrations used for newspapers and television.

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Bloom had subbed for professors at McDaniel College (mcdaniel.edu) over the years so they called her when they needed an instructor. To qualify for a full-time position, Bloom needed an MFA so she attended Maryland Institute of Art.

Bloom had taken classes at Maryland Institute of Art (mica.edu) since she was 5 years old and then graduated with a BFA. Bloom did not take photography as an undergraduate student there. But when she began to work on her MFA, the class she wanted to take was full so she took photography. She was inspired by the teacher, Jack Wilgus.

Bloom started to see possibilities in photography that she had not seen. There were elements about photography that she did not like. She did not like the cheap paper choices of only glossy and mat so she began to make her own photographic paper using emulsions she made herself. Bloom did alternative processes in photography that were not traditional. “I think it was because of my drawing and painting background,” she said.

She also got involved in infrared photography. Next to visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum is infrared light. You can’t see infrared light and you cannot meter for it. Years ago, when she went to Australia, she processed her infrared film in the bathroom to make sure she got good images.

“I used infrared film because it gave beautiful, ethereal images. Clouds were more pronounced. Water can look incredibly different,” Bloom explained. “I still use this method. Since you can’t meter for it, the season, time of day, the weather and elevation can affect it.”

Sue Bloom

Today, Bloom has two cameras that have been converted to only infrared light. With digital cameras, she can now correct her photographs on the spot.

Bloom bought one of the first Mac computers in 1984 as well as one of the first scanners. It took 15 minutes to scan one image. Since there was no color printing at that time, she printed her computer images on overhead transparency sheets instead of paper. That process created a negative that she used in a variety of ways to make collages. Bloom used enlargers to digitally collage things together before Photoshop was invented.

Bloom used good art paper and drew and painted on the images. “I am not a purist that you have to use only one media at a time. Use the tool that makes the appropriate mark you want. Art is mark making. A carpenter has a tool belt around his waist. An artist has a toolbelt of pastels, oil paints, watercolors, pixels and clay.”

The job of the artist is to know their materials, the limitations of the materials, and what they want to express. The artist needs to reach for the tool to make the kind of mark that they want,” Bloom explained.

Bloom became such an expert at digital photography when it came out, she became a Photoshop expert and became one of the people that Adobe used from around the world to help shape the next versions of Photoshop.

As a digital pioneer, Bloom was one of the first people to experiment with the Mac and other processes, and because she knew other materials, Bloom thought she could expand what a computer could do. By that point, Bloom was teaching workshops across the country on what she was doing. One day Focal Press called her and wanted her to write a book on alternative digital processes for artwork. She is a digital pioneer.

By then, her husband Cal had built her a studio behind their house. Each morning she got up and wrote. When Bloom was done, it was 600 pages, not the 300 they anticipated. She has now written three books including Digital Collage and Painting. It has been translated into Chinese and Russian. She rewrote it for new software and a second edition came out. She also wrote Digital Painting in Photoshop. Bloom also writes for magazines as far away as Canada and Australia. She also did a blog.

Bloom also teaches at Common Ground on the Hill, Glen Echo National Park for the Arts, Maine Media Workshop (the top photo workshop in the world). She has taught at Common Ground in Scotland, Santa Fe and Palm Beach and workshops abroad.

Bloom bought one of the first iPhones that came out. Their early cameras were not good quality but today, some can take photographs as large as 8 pixels. “You can do a lot with that,” Bloom explained.

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Bloom takes her phone everywhere.

“One of the neat things about the phone is that is has freed up photography. It has allowed people to feel creative. There are apps for as low as $1,” she said.

Bloom’s latest phone is an iPhone 11 that has three lenses. There is a fair amount of artificial intelligence in iPhones now that can be used with software that can enhance your photographs.

Bloom is having a show at Off Track Art at the corner of Main St. and Liberty St. in Westminster titled “I-phone Images.”

The show will be held Nov. 1-24. The opening is Nov. 1 from 5-7 p.m. with the artist talk at 6 pm.

“I never really make art for other people. I make it for myself," Bloom said. “I like exploring and working with new process and new materials.”

Her website is suebloom.com.

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