Inquire Within: James Papp’s current attractions

James K. Papp

When James K. Papp was 10 years old, his parents gave him a Kodak Instamatic X-15 point-and-shoot camera that, in hindsight, changed his life.

These days, the award-winning photographer and author has upgraded to high-resolution Sony digital mirrorless cameras to capture his unique visions, but his love of taking pictures that showcase the beauty of the world has never abated.

Whether he’s exploring Whatcom County’s parks and wild areas, backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail, or traveling to far-flung locales such as Central or South America, Papp looks to the great outdoors for inspiration that extends not only to his photographs, but also to poems and prose—all of which can be found in his book Inquire Within: A Guide to Living in Spirit.

“My art is inspired by the mystery and awe I experience while being with nature,” he says. “For me, the camera is a magical portal to connect more deeply with the world. I am particularly drawn to water features and the trees, hills and skies that frame them.”

For examples from one of Papp’s largest collections, “Whatcom Waters,” head to Gallery Pegasus in downtown Bellingham for a closer look. As part of a group show currently on display, Papp’s framed and unframed photographs will be sold at special holiday prices through Christmas Eve.

Additionally, a special event taking place from 5pm-8pm Fri., Dec. 13 at the Holly Street creative space will draw attention to Papp’s photographs while visitors get a chance to chat with the artist. At 7pm, he’ll share nature stories and discuss some of his photographic experiences. Throughout the night, autographed copies of Inquire Within will also be available for purchase.

One question that may arise during the Friday night soiree could be why so many of Papp’s arresting images of Whatcom’s rivers, waterfalls and lakes are rendered in black-and-white—including “Over the Falls,” which was awarded second prize in the worldwide 1x Photo Awards contest. He says the “classic monochrome medium honors the timeless nature of these settings and places my art contextually within the rich history of landscape photography.”

Paul Oleniacz, owner of the Atomic Kitten Vintage at Gallery Pegasus, likens Papp’s work to another master of black-and-white photography, calling the photographer the “Ansel Adams of the Northwest.”

Like Adams, Papp’s images exude the spiritual impact that nature provides, and point to the importance of preserving the planet’s wild places.

“My photographs showcase different stages of the water cycle with an aim to highlight the beauty of water and to exalt its precious presence within the Pacific Northwest region that I hold so dear,” he says. “‘Over the Falls,’ my first signature piece, shows the sheer power of the Nooksack River flow and the bounty of water as it powers its way from the high country to the sea.”

In Inquire Within, Papp furthers his ideas about the value of being outdoors, and why it’s so important to how he lives his life.

“Communion in Nature changes us,” he writes. “It makes us happier and more complete, more suitable to be in towns and cities and relationships and jobs together.”

WHAT: Photographs and Stories with James Papp
WHEN: 5pm-8pm Fri., Dec. 13
WHERE: Gallery Pegasus, 301 W. Holly St.
COST: Entry is free

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