An artistic endeavor, a worldly mission

The Baltimore Sun

When Doug and Carole Bruns look around their neat, blue-walled gallery space on Main Street in Ellicott City, they see more than a showplace for photographs.

The newly opened f64 gallery is the Fulton couple's latest joint venture, their "empty nest" project and the fulfillment of a longtime desire of Doug Bruns to delve more deeply into fine-art photography.

It is also a way to raise money for a foundation they started, which funds efforts to send young people from the United States to other countries for educational and public service projects.

"That is the driving force behind the gallery," Doug Bruns said.

He recalled how the couple's youngest daughter took trips -- through Elon University in North Carolina -- to help people in Guatemala and Tibet that deeply influenced her life. The Brunses wanted to give more American youth such opportunities.

"Americans think the world is a scary and dangerous place," Carole Bruns said. While there are dangers, she said, the world is also "a wonderful place, filled with wonderful people. ... We want to finance opportunities for young people to open their eyes to the world, not only to how wonderful it is, but also the needs in the world."

While they are excited by the altruistic mission of the gallery, the Brunses are also serious about the artistic aspects.

"We're looking for fine-art photography from emerging, midcareer or established photographers," Doug said. All styles are welcome, in black and white or color, "but the common theme is that there is a consistency to the vision of the photographer and a consistency to the ability to execute that vision."

Doug, 51, said he grew up in a family of amateur and professional photographers and has been interested in the art form for many years. He studied art as a child but majored in philosophy at Principia College in Illinois.

Fifteen years ago, he was representing a furniture manufacturer and Carole, now 50, was teaching elementary school in Baltimore County when they decided to quit their jobs, cash out their savings and start an office-furniture dealership.

Atlantic Corporate Interiors Inc. grew to four locations and 50 employees, over which Carole remains president and chief executive officer. That success allowed the Brunses, who have three grown children, to start the gallery as a nonprofit venture.

In recent years, Doug had returned more seriously to taking, exhibiting and selling his photographs.

He spent a year photographing and interviewing 100 men living on Baltimore's streets for the project, One Hundred Gentlemen of Baltimore, and he has photographed people and landscapes on five continents.

The gallery's opening show includes some of his work and photography by three other artists.

There is a vibrant series of dancers in motion photographed by Maine artist Arthur Fink and photographs of still-life scenes in a classical style by Victor Romanyshyn, who also lives in Maine.

Artist Alison Wright has exhibited her photographs around the world and published several books. Much of her work, including what is on display at f64, focuses on the traditions and cultures in remote areas of the world and reflects her time living among Buddhists in Asia.

She said she admired the Brunses' efforts to use photography to broaden people's understanding of the world -- an approach that mirrors her own.

"I think Doug has lot of potential for success," she said. "He's got the best of both things going for him. He's good at business, and he has a good artistic eye. ... It's also a beautiful space."

She said as a photographer, much of her work is solitary, so she enjoyed attending the opening reception for the f64 exhibit.

"As an artist, it's reassuring to do live exhibitions once in a while, so you are in touch with how people are responding to [your work], and what they are responding to. ... It's tough because you want to shoot what you are interested in, but you have to know what people want to buy."

The Brunses say they, too, are finding the balance between what they find interesting and what people will want to hang in their homes.

Doug said he is drawn to journalistic photography, but "this is a commercial venture. We're trying to walk that line."

The couple got their gallery -- in a space previously occupied by Andrei Kushnir/Michele Taylor LLC American Painting -- up and running in 30 days. But Carole said the pressure is much lower than when they started their first business.

"This represents for us a scaled-down approach," she said. "We have more time for it to be successful."

She added: "It's always been a fun venture for us to work together."

f64 is at 8289 Main St., Ellicott City. 410-480-9004, or

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