Art appreciation: Ray Pfortner shares 25 years of memories

The exhibit is a nod to the fact that Pfortner has now resided on the island for 25 years.

Ray Pfortner’s photograph, “Tramp Harbor Sunrise Vashon,” is included in his solo exhibition at The Hardware Store Restaurant Gallery (Ray Pfortner Photo).

Ray Pfortner’s photograph, “Tramp Harbor Sunrise Vashon,” is included in his solo exhibition at The Hardware Store Restaurant Gallery (Ray Pfortner Photo).

Anyone who has ever marveled at the natural beauty of Vashon should race to see Ray Pfortner’s new photography exhibit currently on view at The Hardware Store Restaurant — it is a beautiful house of memories.

The exhibit, “25,” is named not for the number of pieces in the show (there are many more than that), but rather, as a nod to the fact that Pfortner has now reached the milestone of having resided on the island for 25 years. All the photographs in the show were taken here, including shots of color-drenched sunrises, majestic Mount Rainier views, fog-draped forests and what Pfortner calls “the gem of all gems” — the Salish Sea’s resident orcas, as they breach and play near the island’s shorelines.

Pforter, a trim, white-bearded man about town who is easily recognizable by his stylish blue spectacles, has done much more during his time on Vashon than simply take pictures — although his photographs are so beautiful that would have been enough.

For years, he has also shared his expertise with young photography students in “Shoot to Show” workshops held at Vashon Center for the Arts and in the schools — giving teens the chance not only to learn more about photography but also exhibit their works in professional settings. Through his work with the travel company WTE, he has led island adults on photo safaris to such camera-ready locations as the Czech Republic, China, Havana and Croatia. He has also always shared his work generously with The Beachcomber, enriching the pages of our newspaper and its tourist guide, “Destination Vashon.”

In 2003, Pfortner received the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust’s Emma Award for a decade of fostering island conservation. Later in the 2000s, he used photography to support the efforts of islanders determined to stop a plan by Glacier Northwest to expand its gravel mining operations on Maury Island. One photograph in his current show is a rare example of a Pfortner photograph with people in it — a 2009 aerial shot taken by Pfortner, showing hundreds of protesters massed on a Maury beach in the shape of an orca.

In his long career, which began in his native New York City, Pforter has worked as an educator, stock photograph agent, book editor, consultant and environmental scientist.

But now, with the exhibition, “25,” Pfortner has also earned the right to call himself what he has truly become: an islander. This critic is glad to stand on the same rock with him and grateful for the way he has stood behind his camera, creating indelible memories made of moments and light.

A closing reception for “25” will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 30.

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