• Alexa Boschini

Portrait: Wink Gaines, The Rara Avis Collection

Portrait_Wink GainesFrom her home of western North Carolina to the Camargue region of France, photographer Wink Gaines captures the beauty of creatures great and small in their natural environments. She has exhibited her work at the High Point Market for the past two years, and this month she headed west for her first stint at the Las Vegas Market.

After earning a master’s degree in British literature with a minor in journalism at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Gaines was hired as the editor of a weekly newspaper in a small town in western North Carolina. She later moved on to become the features editor at a daily newspaper, where her passion for photography flourished.

“During my editorial career, I knew that the photographs that I produced to accompany my features held my interest and my heart more than writing,” Gaines said.

Gaines launched her own photography business, Wink Gaines Photographer, and partnered with sales and marketing professional Julia Wittenberg to market her nature photography as wall décor for the home under The Rara Avis Collection. The photographs are printed on aluminum in North Carolina and coated using a proprietary hot-press technique, making the artwork durable enough for indoor or outdoor use.

Gaines has garnered numerous accolades for her work, including landing a spot on the National Audubon Society’s list of the top 100 bird photographs of the year in 2011 and 2012, first for capturing a flying ibis and then for her portrait of a nesting great egret.

Portrait_Wink Gaines_At a GlanceWhy did you choose to focus your work on birds and other wildlife?

I have always found peace and solace in the outdoors and in nature. Wildlife photography combines many skill sets including ruggedness, patience, knowledge of the subject, knowledge of your camera, composition and noting the way light does its magic within your preconceived image. It’s like painting with a camera! Birds and all forms of wildlife are very important parts of the canvas of the natural world. Every time I view my subjects through the lens, I am amazed by their life force and their ability to live to the fullest in whatever environment they inhabit. Observing birds and wildlife gives me back some of the wonder and peace I have lost on the road to adulthood!  

What is your favorite photograph that you’ve ever shot?

Photographing the white horses of the Camargue in France has got to be my favorite experience with a camera. The animals are wild and beautiful as is the landscape of this region. Nothing can be more perfect than the combination of blue water and white horses with sunset light dappling the scene.  Selfishly, my youngest son and daughter-in-law live in France, so I always take the time to combine two of my favorite activities.

What are some of the biggest challenges you encounter in your work?

Surprisingly, the biggest challenges of being a wildlife photographer are not dealing with the weather or having camera equipment fail. I find that the challenge lies in finding unique but timeless ways to portray wildlife subjects without compromising their integrity of place and being. Clients who commission or purchase my works respond to the natural beauty of the animals and comment frequently on how much dignity and strength shows through their eyes. It is getting that connection to the subject that is most important but challenging to me.

Tell me about the presentation of your photographs. Why did you decide to print them on aluminum and treat them for indoor/outdoor use?

I am truly amazed by the image quality, life-likeness and durability of aluminum prints. The presentation is flawless with a very high-definition quality. The aluminum print process that I use exclusively was developed by a fellow North Carolina entrepreneur who has a heart for and a background in photography. Design clients appreciate that these long-lasting, archival quality images can be used indoors or out, and that they are durable, eco-friendly and uniquely artistic. The images in The Rara Avis Collection are definitely well-received and “astonishing,” as one design client commented.

What kind of response has your work received so far?

To have been participating in trade shows for only two years beginning at the High Point Market in October 2013, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Participants and design/furniture professionals stop by our gallery, stare at the lifelike images and ask about the story behind the image and the process of printing on aluminum.

What are your hopes for your first Las Vegas Market?

Showing in Las Vegas will certainly put Wink Gaines Photographer and The Rara Avis Collection in the position to attract clients and buyers from the West Coast and all over the world. Instead of setting up in the usual art and home décor galleries, my business partner Julia Wittenberg and I have placed ourselves among the buyers and design professionals in the casual and outdoor market sector.  Living spaces have expanded to include all types of outdoor decorative and utilitarian areas which need artwork to bring the outdoor design scheme together. That is the whole idea for bringing high-design artwork on aluminum to the marketplace.

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