Local photographer seeks everyday magic

CAMERA READY: Local photographer and world traveler Chris Abell makes it a point to bring his camera with him wherever he goes, including his recent journey to the Bernese Mountains in Switzerland. Photo by Christopher Gurtner

by Luke Roland 

For over 40 years, Asheville native Chris Abell has been crafting flutes and whistles for musicians all over the world. His experience building these instruments, he says, has disciplined and trained his eye to see small and unique details. 

Such skills, he continues, have benefited his other passion: photography. Behind the lens, Abell’s sharp eye scans for the extraordinary. “If I look through the viewfinder and it looks familiar, I don’t push the shutter button,” he says. 

Abell’s patient approach to photography will be on display at Pink Dog Gallery during his exhibit, This Is Not Rush Hour. The show’s opening reception is Friday, Dec. 9, at 5 p.m. The exhibit runs through Sunday, Jan. 8.  

One lens, one shot 

Though a native of Asheville, Abell’s career in fluting making began in Boston. It was here that he also discovered photography, thanks to his then-colleague Conrad Marvin. Among Abell’s earliest influences were landscape photographer Ansel Adams and fashion photographer Yasuhior Wakabayashi, also known as Hiro

In 1994, after more than a decade in Massachusetts, Abell relocated his business, The Abell Flute Co., to Asheville. The company’s success, he notes, has afforded him the opportunities to travel internationally. And his camera, he adds, is always at his side during these trips.

Abell’s photography is notable for its contrast of darkness and light, as well as his interest in finding the extraordinary in ordinary places. The self-described amateur says he prefers to allow the image to speak for itself without the use of photo manipulation. 

“A beautiful photograph, wherever you look and no matter how you frame it, is based on the light,” he says. “The light is all we have. Our eyes are filters for light. If the light is right, then there is something beautiful that you’d want to see again.”  

One lens, one shot, no post, continues Abell, is his philosophical approach to photography. For the artist, it’s about capturing what is out there in the moment and getting the image on a wall rather than a computer.  

The extraordinary all around  

ALMOST DONE: While visiting Freiburg, Germany, Abell snapped this photo of a man carrying multiple chairs into a nearby cafe. Photo by Abell

This Is Not Rush Hour features photographs Abell has taken over the last seven years — both in Asheville and abroad. The exhibit’s title, he notes, corresponds with his approach toward photography. 

Among the standout images is “Almost Done.” Photographed in Freiburg, Germany, it captures a man carrying multiple chairs on his back toward a cafe. Perhaps a common scene for the city’s residents, the act was an exceptional sight for the Asheville artist. 

Another image, “Eiger Morning” was taken atop Eiger Mountain in the Bernese Alps. While inside his hotel room, Abell happened to open his window. Outside, the distant mountain peaks broke through a series of clouds. 

For Abell, both moments reveal the endless possibilities for amazement and awe — an outlook he hopes viewers take away from his exhibit. 

“In every scene and every moment there is something extraordinary,” Abell says. “If you pay attention to it.”

WHAT: Opening reception of This Is Not Rush Hour 
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 9, 5-7 p.m., free
WHERE: Pink Dog Gallery, 348 Depot St.


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