Photographer Martin Unrue’s work showcased at Ravenswood City Hall

Suzette Lowe
Local photographer Martin Unrue has used various techniques, including infrared, to produce some dramatic photos such as the cabin at Cedar Lakes.

Not often is a seat of government also an art museum.

When Ravenswood City Hall was moved to the former BB&T Bank building, Katrena Ramsey, superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the city, requested one area be exactly that, a place to display the works of local artists.

“I told the mayor one of those walls was mine,” Ramsey said with a laugh. ‘I could just envision artists showcasing their work and being introduced to the community.”

Through mid-July, the photographic art of Martin Unrue will be featured.

Unrue, who describes himself as a ‘serious hobbyist,’ has been delving into photography since the 1970s. For the past 15 years, he has spent all his free time pursuing his art.

“I really came by it honest,” he said. “My mom gave my dad a Kodak Brownie camera to take with him when he shipped off to Korea.”

“High Voltage” by Martin Unrue

His father took a lot of pictures.

“Once a month he’d have a slide show,” Unrue recalled. “I still have that camera and it still works.”

Unrue has added a few more cameras to his collection.

“I have about 10 that I use now,” he said. “Usually when I am out and about, I’ll have three with me. I take a lot of lenses along because I just never know what I’ll see that catches my imagination.”

The photographer says it takes a lot of patience and time to get shots that please him.

“I have spent hours trying to get just the right picture of a snake,” Unrue, who works as a computer draftsman, said. “I remember being intensely focused taking a photo of a bug on a stem. When I brought it up on my computer, there was so much more to see. The camera captures more than my eye can.”

“RFD Last Call” by Martin Unrue

Old houses and barns are of particular interest to the artist.

“They tell such a story,” he said. “With certain techniques, you can bring out a lot of detail.”

One method Unrue is especially fascinated by is infrared.

“Infrared gives a whole different look to a photograph,” he said. “It captures the light that bounces off the objects and turns it white. It’s a very dramatic look.”

Unrue said he has an ambitious goal. He will attempt to photograph all 240 registered cemeteries in Jackson County.

“There are some out there that are not even on a map,” he said. “It’s a personal challenge for me to capture these.”

Ultimately when choosing what to photograph, Unrue says it comes down to one thing.

“It has to speak to me,” he said.

“Forgotten Memories” by Martin Unrue

Unrue and several photographers formed Jackson County Tripods a few years ago. They share techniques and photos and occasionally have workshops.

“We haven’t met during the pandemic but we’re looking forward to getting together soon,” he said. “We’d love to see more people come out and talk photography.”

Previous artists that have been featured at Ravenswood City Hall are Charles Westerman, Jim Bowers and Boyce McCoy. All pieces in the current display can be purchased.