Art — Searching for the extraordinary

Manchester photographer says she is most inspired by nature and landscapes

By Michelle Saturley

Rachel Spierer’s first brush with photography started with a mother-daughter trip to Eastern Europe.

“I was a chaperone on a trip with my daughter’s choral group to view the Holocaust sites in Eastern Europe,” Spierer recalled. “I brought along a new camera, a 35 mm, because I wanted to record the trip. I ended up using 23 rolls of film.”

When Spierer returned home and developed the photos, she started showing them to family and friends.

“Despite the intense subject matter, people really liked the photos,” she said. “They liked the composition of the photos and the way they felt when they looked at the photos.” It wasn’t long before Spierer, who works at the Center of New Hampshire, was hooked on her new hobby. She purchased an additional camera — this time a digital one — and began taking photos whenever she got the chance.

“I started out just taking pictures when we traveled on vacation, but then it grew from there,” she said.

Spierer feels most inspired when she’s surrounded by nature. Her photographs skillfully capture both the small moments, such as a duck just resurfacing from a long dive under a lake, or the more sweeping tableau like the Nubble Lighthouse in Maine.

“I feel passionate about nature and scenery. That’s what I photograph the most,” she said. “I try to capture the feeling I get from what I see around me. Certain things call to me more than others. My motto is ‘coaxing the extraordinary from the ordinary.’ That’s what I’m trying to do: capture a moment of beauty and excitement in what looks like an everyday place.”

Each photograph, she says, tells a story.

“I have this one photograph of the sun coming up in my backyard,” Spierer said. “I was standing at the kitchen sink at 6:15 in the morning, and I saw this glimpse of red out the window. I threw on my boots and winter jacket and ran outside with my camera to get the shot. That’s what I think of every time I see that shot. That’s what I mean about capturing these small moments.”

After a few years, the hobby photographer had amassed a huge library of photos, but she didn’t think about selling or showing them until she was approached by a friend and fellow nature lover.

“I had this photo of the sun coming up at Lake Massabesic, and I showed it to a friend of mine,” she said. “He took one look at it and said, ‘I absolutely have to have that. I will pay you for it right now if you let me take it home.’ That’s when I started thinking that maybe this could actually go somewhere,” she said. “I’ve sold a few more copies of that same photo since then.”

Spierer got her feet wet by showing her work over the weekend of June 10 and 11, when she participated in the art exhibit at the Jazz & Blues Festival on Hanover Street.

“I’d had a few photographs in a very small fundraiser before, but this was my first official show, where I was selling photographs alongside established artists,” she said. “I sold very little, but it was an excellent learning experience. When I got there, I didn’t really know how to set up my area. The other artists, particularly Gayle Vanasse, were very helpful.”

Though she didn’t generate a lot of sales at the Festival, Spierer said her work did generate interest.

“I’m not sure if the Jazz & Blues Festival is the kind of venue where you expect a lot of sales, but I did see a lot of people who stopped and took a long time to view my work, and that was encouraging,” she said. “I saw a lot of smiles, a lot of emotions on faces as they walked through. There were people who stayed quite a while to look at the photographs and asked questions. And almost everyone who walked through picked up my business card. So I think it was a successful first show.”

Next, Spierer plans to join the Manchester Artists Association this summer.

“They are a very supportive organization, from what I’ve heard,” she said. “I’m still very new at this, and I need lots of guidance and feedback. Other artists have mentioned to me that the MAA is a great place to get this.”

Spierer would like to be involved in more shows, but her work schedule dictates how that will play out for her in the future.

“I’m one of those artists who still works a day job,” she said. “I enjoy my job a lot. The hours are not very flexible, so I am going to have to pick and choose which events I can do. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into an exhibit, so I’ve learned.”

Her daughter, who was there for the beginning of Spierer’s artistic journey, is thrilled to see her mother’s creative side blossom.

“She’s thrilled about it,” Spierer said. “I think it’s encouraging for her to see someone at this stage of her life, relatively close to retirement age, find something new to be passionate about.”

For more information about Rachel Spierer’s work, send an e-mail to, or call 682-3845.

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