By Kevin Coughlin
It’s not something one would expect to hear a photographer say to a flower. But it wouldn’t be surprising from Edward Surrette, whose floral portraits are featured in the Valentines-themed Heartstrings exhibition at Morristown’s 70 South Gallery.
His favorite shot in the show is a brilliant yellow flower, a lovely still-life. Well, not so still, actually.
“That thing was going like a windshield wiper!” says Surrette, who at 71 has a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and a hearty laugh to back it up.
Great floral shots are no accident, and Surrette’s camera safaris require infinite patience.
One of his favorite haunts is Buck Garden in Far Hills — but only on cloudy days. Too sunny, and the colors wash out. Even when it’s cloudy, he must pay attention.
“The light changes all the time,” he explains.
Sounds like the observation of a seasoned shooter. In fact, Surrette’s only been at this for a few years. He had dabbled in drawing and poetry, but raising two daughters and making ice for the New Jersey Devils during their Stanley Cup years left little time for artistic endeavors.
Then, the girls grew up, and the Netcong resident quit working.
“My wife said, ‘You’re retired. You always wanted a camera. Get yourself a camera.'”
Surrette took a course at the County College of Morris, and honed his skills through trial-and-error. He aims his Nikon D750 at all sorts of subjects, but gardens enthrall him.
“Flowers are very evocative of love, something that touches you in your heart, your head, your eyes. And in photography, your wallet,” he says, laughing.
A Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, Surrette suffers from a mysterious, debilitating condition called R.S.D. It makes snapping steady photos a challenge, even when the wind isn’t whipping daffodils like windshield wipers.
No matter. Nature photography still is the best therapy, he contends.
“For me, it’s like a religion. I’m not a religious person. But when I go into the woods, that’s my sanctuary.”
An urban photo safari greets visitors to the opposite wall of the gallery.
Meg Lyding, who got hooked on photography as a grad student at the Parsons School of Design a decade ago, spent two years hunting for hearts in New York.
“Recently I had broken up with somebody. I saw a heart in concrete. It spoke to me, and it went from there,” says Lyding.
She trekked through four neighborhoods–Greenwich Village, the East Village, the West Village and NoHo–photographing hearts emblazoned on sidewalks.
Lyding logged 100 miles, looking for love in cement. Her lens recorded nearly 1,000 hearts.
“This is the best form of graffiti,” says the Warren County resident, who also provides healing arts for kids. “The most benign form of graffiti.”
“Heartstrings” runs through April 5, 2017, and also features images of the Canadian Rockies by Randolph High School senior Kayla Legatt. The gallery is at 70 South St. Call 973-539-2112 or visit the website for visiting hours.