A photographer for all seasons: Dick Eger opens eyes with exhibit at College of Saint Elizabeth

'Mother-in-Law Leaf,' 2015, Havana, by Dick Eger
'Mother-in-Law Leaf,' 2015, Havana, by Dick Eger
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By Marion Filler and Kevin Coughlin

If you’re curious how a modern Renaissance man thinks, check out Capturing the Image, the new photography exhibit at the Maloney Art Gallery at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morris Township.

Dick Eger with his photo, 'Mother-in-Law Leaf,' at his exhibition, 'Capturing the Image,' at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dick Eger with his photo, ‘Mother-in-Law Leaf,’ at his exhibition, ‘Capturing the Image,’ at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

More than 100 stunning landscapes and portraits give a window into the mind of Dick Eger, whose accomplishments span the worlds of science, finance and the arts.

Self-taught as a photographer, Eger downplays his obvious technical prowess. He prefers to describe himself as an “extraordinarily effective voyeur of life.”

Whether he is revealing sublime sunshine dappling the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or quizzical gazes from an elephant in South Africa or a gritty one-man band in San Francisco, or reflections dancing in a backyard wishing well…Eger gets the viewer’s attention.

'Capturing the Image,' at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
‘Capturing the Image,’ at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“When I see things others do not see, it’s deeply satisfying,” he said at Wednesday’s opening reception.

Sporting his trademark bow tie, Eger greeted scores of friends, family members, professional colleagues, and artists whose work he championed during two decades as a trustee and president of the nonprofit Morris Arts.

“He composes photos of things I would never think to shoot,” said the museum’s curator, Virginia Fabbri Butera, also citing the wry humor in Eger’s photo titles and a joie de vivre “that really comes across.”

Karen Gansner and CSE art student Alexandra Benedetto at 'Capturing the Image,' at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Karen Gansner and CSE art student Alexandra Benedetto at ‘Capturing the Image,’ at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Eger’s lyrical depiction of an Icelandic gorge captivated CSE art major Kuaran Brown. “I like the curvature, how the river doesn’t seem to end,” he observed.

The show, which runs through April 14, 2019, is Eger’s first local exhibition. His other concerns have kept him pretty busy.

A financial adviser for Merrill Lynch, Eger holds degrees in biology, chemistry, bacteriology and public health.

Early in his career, he researched cell biology at The Rockefeller University, then moved to leukemia research as a biochemist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute, where he became administrator.

Additionally, he is an avid cook, gardener, furniture- and jewelry designer, sculptor and sailor.

Eger and his wife, retired attorney and former Morris Arts Executive Director Anne Aronovitch, also are classically trained pianists.

A GIFT THAT KEPT GIVING

“Photography has been a personal, private, passion of mine for 56 years,” a 15,000-picture odyssey Eger calls “valuable and satisfying.”

For most of those decades, Eger’s artistic weapon of choice was a super-sharp, all-manual, medium-format Rolleiflex camera given to him as a teen by his father, a physics professor and photo enthusiast.

Dick Eger welcomes guests to his exhibition, 'Capturing the Image,' at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Dick Eger welcomes guests to his exhibition, ‘Capturing the Image,’ at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Hassles at numerous international airports—security people in Zimbabwe made him open 20 boxes of his precious 12-shot film rolls—have pushed Eger in recent years toward more compact, less exotic digital cameras, including his iPhone.

It’s made him a believer in the old maxim: The best camera is the one you happen to have with you.

“Did you see something? How quickly can you get it? Some things disappear in seconds,” he explained.

Eger performed the printing of some of the richly toned, highly detailed, silver gelatin black and white Rollei images in the exhibition. His colorful digital works are featured, too.

Anne Aronovitch, former director of Morris Arts, with Drs. Don and Lynn Siebert, at 'Capturing the Image,' at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Anne Aronovitch, former director of Morris Arts, with Drs. Don and Lynn Siebert, at ‘Capturing the Image,’ at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

One of the show’s most arresting photographs is the Mother-In-Law-Leaf, taken during a trip to Cuba.

“There was a tree that had lost all of its leaves, and a few hundred of them were on the ground,” Eger recounted.

“The most extraordinary thing was that they looked like pieces of porcelain — they were stark white.”

He took one back to the hotel, closed the blackout shades and allowed a sliver of light to illuminate the leaf, then shot it with his iPhone.

Art student Kuaran Brown, gallery Curator Virginia Fabbri Butera, art student Abigail Bateau and photographer Dick Eger, at Eger's exhibition, 'Capturing the Image,' at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Art student Kuaran Brown, gallery Curator Virginia Fabbri Butera, art student Abigail Bateau and photographer Dick Eger, at ‘Capturing the Image,’ at the Maloney Art Gallery, March 13, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“That image seems to have a universal magnetism. People are drawn to it, but not necessarily because of what it is.

“It’s remarkable how many people don’t have a clue what it is. Some think it’s a piece of sculpture. It just goes to show you, when you look at things in a different context, they change their identity.”

Capturing the Image runs through April 14, 2019, in the Maloney Art Gallery, in the Annunciation Center of the College of Saint Elizabeth, 2 Convent Road, Morris Township. Visitors are welcome Monday through Thursday, and on Sundays, from 2 pm to 6 pm, or by appointment, (973) 290-4315.

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