Nora Scarlett’s “Trunks of the Gunks” at Unison


Nora Scarlett’s Valley View with Pitch Pine.

When we’re out hiking in the Gunks together, my Significant Other is always looking at the big picture, shooting the kind of thrilling landscape shots that his Nikon and his collection of fancy lenses can capture in high-definition panoramic glory. Meanwhile, I’m poking along with my dinky little Canon PowerShot, searching out the small details; and sometimes I seem to come home happier with what I’ve photographed than he does.

Maybe I’m just easier to please; but maybe it also has something to do with the wide range of subjects that these mountains have to offer. A delicate wildflower, a black racer snake popping inquisitively out of the grass, an oddly shaped mushroom can all catch the eye as pleasurably as a talus slope rearing impressively out of the mists. And among the smaller-scale photographic subjects that consistently draw my attention are the squirrelly shapes into which tree trunks and roots are so often forced by their inhospitably rocky habitat hereabouts.

Fortunately, rank amateurs like me aren’t the only ones who find themselves fascinated by the grotesque beauty of trees determinedly growing where trees aren’t really supposed to be. Nora Scarlett, a serious studio photographer whose portfolio includes work as a print spotter under the direct supervision of the great Irving Penn, not to mention major advertising agency assignments on campaigns for such high-ticket clients as American Express, the Gap, Reebok, Kodak, IBM, Hershey’s and Seagram’s, now lives in Gardiner. While on a hike in the Shawangunks, she writes, “I was captivated by a tree that appeared to be kissing a boulder.” That was the inspiration for Scarlett’s first serious departure from studio work, a series of large-format photos that she calls “Trunks of the Gunks.”

You can view some of the shots in this series on her website at I was delighted to discover that some of my own favorite twisty-trunked friends are included, such as one that spirals down over a vertical cliff face in the middle of Rock Rift on the Mohonk Preserve. Once you’ve had a taste, you’ll want to check out Scarlett’s gorgeous images in full scale in a show that opens this Saturday, April 7 at Unison Arts & Learning Center just west of New Paltz. There will be an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m.

“Trunks of the Gunks” will stay up until April 29, alongside a selection of Stephen Weinstein’s fruit and vegetable still-life photography. For more information call Unison at (845) 255-1559 or visit Unison is located at 68 Mountain Rest Road, just a mile or so west of the Wallkill.




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