Front Royal photographer spotlights local artists on blog

By Josette Keelor

Sarah Hart Morgan’s interest in photography began after her son was born in 2009, and she realized her point and shoot camera wasn’t going to make the cut.

“He started moving around too fast and I couldn’t get good pictures,” she said. So she set her sights on something better — still bottom of the line, she said, but an improvement. Before long, her interest in photographing her own child developed into a desire to capture life’s moments for other families.

Two years ago she shot a wedding, and that was it.

“I kind of turned it into a business,” said the Front Royal real estate loan officer. It’s still a part-time gig, but now, in addition to weddings, Morgan focuses on personal moments — like high school graduations, pregnancies and childhood.

Then this summer she launched the blogging project, A Call to Artists, so she could use her growing success to promote other local artists.

Last month she photographed 25-year-old metal sculptor John Urbanski of Front Royal, and on Aug. 11 she met with 18-year-old Kendall Thomas of Middletown, who discovered a passion for throwing paint during her senior year at Skyline High School.

“I actually did her senior pictures,” Morgan said of Thomas. Then Morgan saw photos Thomas posted on Facebook from her school’s art class.

“And it was almost like a secret,” Morgan said. “No one knew that she had done this amazing, amazing [art].”

Thomas said she saw Morgan’s advertisement online for A Call to Artists but hesitated, thinking she wasn’t the type of artist Morgan meant. Besides being new to the craft, Thomas isn’t even pursuing art as a career. A student at Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown, she’s studying to be a pastry chef.

But to Morgan, an artist by any other career path is still just as talented. She and Thomas met for a photo shoot along the Shenandoah River by Thomas’ home in Warren County so Thomas could throw paint for the camera.

Her interest took form during a high school independent study that combined wood with painting.

“I never knew I had that talent,” Thomas said. But she said Morgan’s talent makes her look even better, adding, “She has the eye for it.”

The photos of Thomas’ paint throwing session will be added to Morgan’s blog at HartsDesirePhoto.com, which Morgan launched initially to document do-it-yourself projects but then turned over to her photography.

“It kind of just evolved,” she said. “It’s amazing to me once you go over that hurtle and put yourself out there, it’s amazing the things you can accomplish.”

Cue Urbanski said he realized an interest in sculpting one day while at work as a welder. Art runs in his family — his mother first was a basket weaver and then a metal sculptor before she switched to massage therapy, and his uncle is a Guggenheim Award-winning sculptor — but Urbanski said he took his time coming around to the idea.

“The first sculpture I made was on the clock,” he said. “I was supposed to be working.”

The idea came from a scene he had witnessed that week, two years ago, when a girl crossed the road at an intersection to meet her boyfriend on the other side.

“Shes just a few feet away,” Urbanski wrote in an interview he did for Call to Artists, “and BAM fresh picked flowers!!! she and her expression of joy turns to eyes full of love and a smile soooo big it was … really special for them, and for me.”

“so here i am at work and i remember all this in a flash and i said to myself ‘SELF, we should build a little sculpture of that moment,” he wrote.

But like Thomas, Urbanski didn’t consider himself talented enough to call himself an artist.

That first sculpture was only two stick figures with a single flower, but for Morgan’s blog he wrote that the emotion was there and after that first time he was hooked.

Still, he said, he’s not one to go looking for praise, and he said he feels weird talking about his work to others.

“It’s nice to have someone else shine a little light,” he said. “I can just bashfully accept.”

And that’s exactly why Morgan chose him.

“I’d like to stick with up-and-coming artists,” she said. “I’d love to have people that are ready to start showing off what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished.”

“I don’t really know where it could lead,” she said. “There’s no end in sight.”

For more information about the photography of Sarah Hart Morgan or the Call to Artists project, visit www.HartsDesirePhoto.com.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com