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Helping put faces with places in Howard County


The snowball stand on Route 99. Lake Kittamqundi at dawn. Sheep. Bulls. State Sen. James Clark, grinning, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and holding an ear of corn.

These are among the images of Howard County displayed on the walls of the Columbia Foundation's conference center in the American City Building on Wincopin Circle.

The 53 photographs, some color and some black and white, were taken by Carol Cathcart and Joan Forester, Howard County residents and longtime friends.

They were first displayed this month and were featured during LakeFest, the free weekend-long arts and music festival. The prints will be on display for several more months, and can be purchased for $80 each.

"It's really a collaboration between the foundation and local artists," said Sabina Taj, program officer for the foundation, which gives grants to nonprofit organizations in the county.

The idea for the Howard County-focused exhibit, called Faces-Places Howard County, began with Barbara Lawson, who heads the foundation.

She noticed that the conference room had plenty of white walls, and to Lawson, white walls are just gallery space waiting to be used.

To celebrate the foundation's 35th anniversary, Lawson decided to create an exhibit focusing on people and places in the county.

She called two photographers she knew - Forester and Cathcart - not realizing that they were good friends who had known each other since Forester had been a teacher at Swansfield Elementary School when Cathcart's children were there. Both their husbands worked for the Rouse Co., Forester said.

"Carol and I have known each other as artists, photographers and parents for a long time," Forester said.

Forester, who has lived in Howard County for 30 years, was a teacher at Stevens Forest and Swansfield before retiring in 2002. She became interested in photography, she said, "because I have things to say with the camera." She does her own darkroom developing and printing.

Cathcart, who has been a Howard County resident since 1968, was an oil painter before she became a photographer. She originally took pictures to help with the paintings, but soon found she liked the camera more than the paintbrush. "A passion came that was stronger than any I'd had for painting," she said.

Though this was their first collaboration, Forester and Cathcart plan to work together again and said they were amazed at how well their ideas meshed. When they were choosing which images to use, Forester said, "we agreed to disagree with any image the other had." Yet, they wound up nixing only one each.

While Forester shoots in black and white and Cathcart's photos are in color, they are arranged on the walls so that one photo easily segues into another. Photos of farms and farm animals are near each other. Grandchildren go with grandchildren. A photo of two young boys with sticking-up hair seems to complement the one to its right, showing bright-green blades of grass.

The two photographers shared a vision for what the images would convey. The photos of children, local businesses and Ellicott City's historic downtown all have a timeless quality.

Some of the photos were taken years ago, but nearly all of them look as though they could have been. (In keeping with the theme of timelessness, both women used film cameras, not digital ones.)

Neither artist pointed her lens at traffic jams, chain stores or McMansions, noted Cathcart. For her, one of the best parts of the project was seeing Howard County in a new way.

"To be called on to look at your county with fresh eyes is really exciting," Cathcart said. "Right in your own back yard, you don't necessarily see something unless you're called upon to see it."

The exhibit is open to the public during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Information: 410-730-7840.

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