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Taylor’s book to hit the shelves

By Staff | Nov 25, 2011

Hali Taylor first began photographing people when she was a senior in high school. After learning dark room techniques from her father, she worked on a yearlong project inspired by the Walt Whitman poem “Faces.”

Her photos were put together in a bound book with a purple cover that she had made. There was only one copy of her creation.

But now, years later, Taylor will again showcase her photography in a book.

“On the Wall” features portraits, shot by Taylor, of Shepherdstown residents over the years. The book will hit the shelves today, Nov. 25 as part of the town’s 250th anniversary celebration.

When Taylor moved to Shepherdstown in 1977, she was photographing a lot of the town’s historic buildings. It wasn’t until she saw one of famous photographer Richard Avedon’s shows in 1985 that she decided to take more photographs of people.

“I loved the format (he shot) so much that I adopted it as my own,” Taylor said. “I loved the human face.”

Taylor described Avedon’s images as “crystal clear” black-and-white images in which it felt like the subject’s eyes were locked on yours.

“They were … so approachable,” she said. “I felt like there was a real emotional connection with the people even though I didn’t know them.”

So Taylor began first by shooting her friends. At first she felt like she was imposing, “but now I feel like people understand what I’m doing,” Taylor said. And over the years her portfolio grew to over 800 photos – of the well-known, those passing through and friends and visitors to the area.

“What it does is really remind me of the transient nature and the enduring nature of a small town,” Taylor said of her photos in the book. “There are a lot of people in there who have passed away, and there are a lot of people who I missed” photographing.

For years Taylor held a showing of her photos at the Entler Hotel around this time of year and had always desired to publish a book of her prints. So when the Shepherdstown 250 Signature Events Chair Peter Smith approached her about financing the publishing of the book to give as a legacy gift to the town for the anniversary, Taylor said she felt “stunned and amazed.”

“I’m humbled. I’m totally humbled by the respect and appreciation that act was shown for my work,” she said. “I’m grateful to the committee that they selected this as their project.”

Smith said in committee meetings, various ideas were “batted around” as to what to give the town as a gift for its anniversary.

“This arose out of that process,” he said. “… It seemed like a very fitting … legacy item, and Hali is truly a very talented photographer.”

He added, “It was a very natural sort of project to come up with,” referring to Taylor’s wanting to publish a book for years.

John Snyder, of HBP Printing, is providing much in-kind support for the book, as well.

Taylor’s book will be on sale at Four Seasons Book Store, 116 E. German St., starting today at 11 a.m. There will be a photography exhibit this evening at Studio 105, 105 Princess St., from 5 to 8 p.m. A book signing will take place at a later date, Sunday, Dec. 11, at the Bridge Gallery, 8566 Shepherdstown Pike, from 1 to 3 p.m.