Photographer Kim Keith stands in front of "Butterflutter." The photo is part of a show featured through the end of May at Colorado Group Realty.

Photo by John F. Russell

Photographer Kim Keith stands in front of "Butterflutter." The photo is part of a show featured through the end of May at Colorado Group Realty.

Butterfly photos offer break for black-and-white artist

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Key points

A collection of butterfly photos by Kim Keith, is on display through the end of May at Colorado Group Realty, 509 Lincoln Ave. Call 870-8800.

— For Kim Keith, obsession started with two hours in a butterfly garden.

A friend had commissioned the Steamboat Springs photographer to take a character portrait. Keith started researching where she could find butterflies and booked The Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster for two hours early one morning in November 2008.

Soon after the shoot, Keith was reading up on butterfly symbolism, hanging small wire insects on her rearview mirror and sifting through the product of her photo shoot to find the work that would become a series of butterfly photos featured this month at Colorado Group Realty.

"I just kind of got obsessed with them," Keith said about her subject. That interest grew the more she researched the topic, discovering mythology and symbolism for the insects as she went.

As Keith began selling the photos - starting with a show at Artists' Gallery of Steamboat in January - she heard personal anecdotes about butterflies appearing at personal turning points.

"It makes it meaningful. It's not just pictures of insects to me anymore. It's really symbolic of change and resurrection," she said. Now Keith wants to go back to the butterfly pavilion and has considered making a trip to a rain forest.

The show at Colorado Group Realty features about half a dozen large butterfly images, as well as a collection of prints. The office has been participating in First Friday Artwalk for about a year. In late March, a wall hanging system installed by Steamboat painter Susan Schiesser introduced more permanent wall space, said Laurie Peter, who does marketing for Colorado Group Realty and co-curates its art. Schiesser is working with the office to get new local work on the walls each month.

"We're calling it our alternative art venue," Peter said.

A new style

With its light subject matter and sharp colors, this show is a break from the way Keith normally approaches photo subjects. She moved to Steamboat nine years ago to work for local photographer Jim Steinberg and later started a studio that specializes in "Bodyscapes" - close-up black-and-white portraits of nude subjects. The butterfly collection has pushed Keith to consider doing more projects in color, she said.

"There are so many things that don't translate in black and white. With the butterflies, there are a couple that are silhouetted that seem black and white, but when you see the colors that are there, you just can't bypass that. There are subjects that you just can't do without color," she said.

Keith plans to take a camera with her on a hike up Mad Creek this weekend and will be ready to capture the clusters of purple butterflies that gather by the water there. The setup follows the same lines as her shoot at the butterfly pavilion: Make a plan, bring a camera and be prepared to capture what's there.

"I'm more of a person that creates a situation rather than finds it, and from this situation came all of these findings," Keith said about her time at the butterfly pavilion. She won't be making the leap to wildlife photography any time soon; Keith said she just wants to choose subjects that have meaning to people.

"I never plan on what to take pictures of. I never planned to take pictures of butterflies - because Bodyscapes is like the be-all, end-all for me," she said. "But I think you have to keep yourself open to whatever life brings you."

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