Beauty around UW is enough to keep even the best photographer busy

Jon Marmor, Columns MagazineI received a degree in art from the UW. I love to take photographs, and when I need to clear my head, I like to head over to explore two of the UW campus’ wild treasures: the Union Bay Natural Area and Washington Park Arboretum.

That’s about as much as I have in common with Art Wolfe, ’75. The West Seattle native, who also holds a B.F.A. from the UW, is one of the greatest photographers of our generation. He spends most of his time traveling the world taking photos for a new book or teaching photography. But when he returns home for a break, he will often trek over to the Union Bay Natural Area and Arboretum to enjoy the peace and quiet, and to look for the quieter images that the rest of us miss at first (or second) glance.

As Wolfe’s cover story photo essay shows, he sure knows how to find them. Over the years, he has gotten to know the campus’ wild places quite well; as a painting student in the early 1970s, Wolfe would hike there with his canvas and his paints to spend hours creating images. Today, the area’s hold on him is strong as ever. “I’m from the Pacific Northwest, and I come back to that area again and again,” he told me while enjoying some time in Seattle over the holidays. “The scenes there are very complex. But there is so much life there, right in our backyard. The quieter shots challenge you. I try to live in that moment, slow it down, and really observe.”

Though he graduated from the UW in 1975, the University has an equally strong place in his heart. That’s why, when I asked him to put together a special photo essay for our readers in honor of the UW’s 150th anniversary, he was only too happy to oblige.

These wild areas speak to Wolfe—and to us—for more than just their natural beauty. They resonate because they are part of the University of Washington, a place that nourishes us with its stunning, gorgeous physical space as well as the mind-expanding challenges we get in the classroom. It’s a place we are proud to call home.