Prairie meets science and photography: the work of Dr. Carl Fictorie

Gretchen Lee and Allison Wordes — Staff Writers

It’s important to understand the place we are in, according to Dr. Carl Fictorie, professor of chemistry at Dordt. Fictorie’s photography expertise has taken over the campus center gallery. He held the official gallery reception on Thursday, September 26, but the collection is still on display.

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The gallery’s goal is to tell the story of a particular place—Dordt’s very own prairie. It is a place he has come to know very well. Photography has blended his interests of art and science.

“I come to my art with a scientific perspective,” said Fictorie. He designed the gallery to flow so as you walk around from left to right you can experience all the seasons. The only weather not portrayed is rain (to protect the camera equipment).

Additionally, the photos are hung at varying levels, corresponding to where you might find them in the prairie. For example, the Maximillian sunflowers are higher, while the insects tend to be closer to the floor. Not everything is eye level in the prairie, after all.

Fictorie encouraged anyone viewing the gallery to go out and experience the prairie for themselves–any time of the year. Even if it seems mundane on the surface, given time, it will unfold itself.

“It’s important to realize that the prairie is the same, but not the same,” said Fictorie. “If you take the time to look, you can find something different every time you go: Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall.”

The number of photos he has taken over a period of six years is innumerable; yet, he never seems to run out of subject material.

“God does this over and over and never gets tired of it,” said Fictorie. “We should do the same.”

Although he does not have a favorite season, Fictorie did note that fall is special because of the way nature begins to break down and bring about change. Once things start to decay, he said, there is a variety of textures of colors.

“It’s amazing the diversity he is capturing,” said art professor David Platter. He said it is like a ritual Fictorie has, going out to photograph this space again and again.

Winter is also a good time to get pictures, said Fictorie, because of the unique patterns and the fact that it is easier to get to new places not accessible during the other seasons.

“There is this little stream in a grove of trees with a little stream running through it. It’s much easier to reach during the winter because the snow makes it more visible and easier to walk to,” said Fictorie.

This project had the humble beginnings as a Facebook challenge in 2014. Education professor David Mulder encouraged Fictorie to post one picture every day. He accepted the challenge and has kept up with it fairly consistently. Having lived by the Dordt prairie for several years, it made sense to use it as the focus of his collection, Fictorie explained.

Since the challenge began, he has been out to the prairie monthly, or weekly, on Sunday afternoons to expand his collection. He prefers mornings and afternoons, because the trees block the prairie’s evening light.

Fictorie also participated in Arts on the Prairie, a community event held Saturday, September 28. He volunteered to teach anyone interested in how to take original and observant cell phone pictures of the prairie.

Besides teaching others about photography, Fictorie hopes to teach others about understanding one’s home through his exhibit, as well as encourage an awareness of the prairie’s beauty.

“It’s important for us to have places like the prairie to remind us of God’s notion of creativity,” said Fictorie. “I want people to go out and look at the prairie itself and experience it.”

The campus center exhibit will be open to the public until October 25th.

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