Funky chickens

Photographer finds beauty

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— JoAnn Baker Paul photographs animals as if they were movie stars and names them after musicians.

"I photograph them very formally in the studio," said Baker Paul, a Routt County resident. "I immortalize them by turning them into art."

Her subjects include dogs, ducks, chickens and white-crested Polish roosters, and she has named them after musicians such as Elvis, Rod Stewart and David Bowie, depending on their personalities.

She also sings to them to help them relax during a photo shoot.

"Sometimes, I almost think that they like being photographed, but some are terrified and freeze up," Baker Paul said. "The baby chickens go to sleep. That's their way of dealing with stress."

Baker Paul began shooting portraits of dogs after spending 10 years photographing dogs with Santa Claus for the Animal Assistance League of Northwest Colorado.

"Dogs have a very short attention span, and success comes about through the combination of my love and patience with the animals and their willingness," Baker Paul said. "I never had a dog that I couldn't photograph."

When photographing animals, Baker Paul looks to see who these creatures really are to create a memory of the conscious energy residing in all things, she said.

"I am also looking to see the tender part we often choose to forget or are fearful of remembering -- that which makes us vulnerable."

Baker Paul is one of 16 students recently accepted into a four-week digital photography class at Yale University. The class will be her first step toward her master's degree.

"I don't ever want to stop learning," Baker Paul said. "Going to this class is a great opportunity to see what I am up against in the Yale community. I can't imagine that it will be easy, but I'll just push 'til I get what I need out of it."

Baker Paul has been working on a new project that she hopes to exhibit in a gallery in New York. The project involves a series of photographs, drawings and paintings of "out buildings."

"They are the funky little buildings you see on farms," she said. "In terms of vision, they're fascinating because they have a lot of architectural and unintentional structural elements. As a result, they have accidental beauty and an abstract quality."

Baker Paul also has been creating what she calls "scan-o-graphs" late at night. She scans feathers, torn pieces of paper, ashes, shells, and remnants of airplane crashes into her computer, and then she manipulates them into collages and compositions.

But Baker Paul considers herself a painter and sculptor before a photographer.

"I try to convey the passion for what I feel and see into art. That's what every artist tries to do," she said. "It's a gift, and I need to get it out there."

Some of Baker Paul's work is on display at Studio Gallery 27 in Steamboat Springs.

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