GROTON — After years of taking time off for family and a move from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts 15 years ago, sometime School Committee member and full-time mother Karen Riggert has combined her love for the town and professional photography to create her first big, coffee-table-sized book filled with images celebrating all that is beautiful about Groton.
“I used to do photography as a hobby when I lived in Pennsylvania,” said Riggert.
“At the time, I entered a couple contests and won a few prizes. I also had some exhibits in Philadelphia but when I moved to Groton, I had a family and ended up becoming involved in the community instead.”
With family concerns to keep her busy, Riggert said that she had little time to do any serious kind of photography until she found herself outside St. James Church in West Groton one day, thinking “Boy! I could do a small book just on the churches of Groton!”
“That notion expanded to include the whole town, which has so much more that’s beautiful and interesting,” said Riggert. “Meanwhile, I was also taking pictures of local wildlife, including some found in my own yard. So I sort of came to realize that I wanted to try and capture various aspects of Groton that I loved. So I began taking pictures of conservation areas, waterways, and farms too. I could have done a lot more on farms, they’re so beautiful. With the idea of collecting all my photographs into a book, I decided to add a chapter on business. Not the typical grocery-store type of business, but the one-of-a-kind businesses. I wrote letters to several businesses in town describing what I was doing and asked the owners to write something up about their business to go with the pictures.”
Published by Blurb.com and available Sept. 11, “Groton, MA -A Special New England Community” will be a fully illustrated book with more than 365 photos spread over 160 pages. The book is divided into 11 chapters, each covering different aspects of Groton.
“Groton is very photogenic in that it has so much beauty about it,” said Riggert. “In particular, it has all four seasons in which to capture that beauty. Between the fall foliage and fields of snow, or spring flowers, the same scenes change all the time. There are a lot of places in town that have the same aspects but because of the different seasons, you can always capture something about them that catches the eye.
“What I did was to figure out where I spent my time,” Riggert said of how she decided what subjects to cover in the book. “That meant community events like the annual fireworks display or the fireman’s muster. I’ve also been involved in the public school system as well as some of the private schools so I wanted to cover them as well. I also wanted to cover the town’s conservation areas and waterways but the problem there is that you can only do so much with that because after a while, pictures of nature scenes all begin to look alike. So I tried to get away from landscapes and do different things like capturing an interesting piece of farm equipment that I found on the Bates land on Old Ayer Road. I wanted to try and photograph all of the town’s little secrets and bring them out.”
But the work leading up to the publication of “A Special New England Community” was hardly the author’s first brush with photography.
“I’ve had a camera in my hands at least since the sixth grade,” revealed Riggert. “I have pictures of me taking pictures when I was still pretty young. I don’t know. I just like it.”
However, much has changed since the days of film and darkrooms.
“Today, technology makes taking a clear, high-quality picture easier than ever,” said Riggert. “All you have to do is search out what you want to capture, download it from a digital camera to the computer, crop the image any way you want, and you’ve got a professional-looking photo. But I still think it takes skill to come up with a really special image. It also requires time and patience, and careful consideration of what you’re trying to capture or portray.
“Subject matter and presentation is what makes for a memorable photograph,” continued Riggert. “There also has to be something of the personal about it. My book on Groton, for example, is going to be a personal experience to everyone who lives in town. I think the subject matter of a photograph as well as its sharpness and color make a huge difference in the quality of a photograph.”
Having had exhibits of her work in the past, Riggert’s opinion is not something to be taken lightly. The Lucie Foundation has awarded her honorable mention in a recent contest of 15,000 entries from 103 countries in the 2010 International Photography Awards. Riggert was recognized in the “Backyard Beauty” category for pictures of birds taken around her Wintergreen Lane home.
Riggert’s work is also in this year’s edition of the Town Report, which is illustrated by a number of local scenes Riggert photographed. She also keeps busy taking senior graduation and family portraits, taking sports videos needed for college application packages, and photographing and resizing nonstandard artwork submitted for use in Groton-Dunstable Regional School’s “Big Book: Pages for Peace” project.
“When I began working on my book, I started out with categories of the things that I wanted to capture about the town,” Riggert said of her motivation. “The different seasons, traditions, schools, businesses. I wanted to show what Groton had to offer and what made it such a unique and beautifully preserved town with all it has to offer. I wanted to help people learn to better appreciate it. My goal, really, has been to inspire residents to value their town.”
Not resting on her laurels, Riggert intends to move on to new challenges.
“This fall, I want to try and learn some things better,” said Riggert. “I want to learn how to use Photoshop, how to use my camera better, and set up and run my own website. So I’m going to educate myself better with the whole business of photography. At this point, I want to enter upon a regimen of self-improvement.”
Those interested in buying Riggert’s book can visit her booth at the annual Grotonfest celebration held Sept. 11. There, she will be selling the book for $49.95, which is cheaper than purchasing from the publisher.
On the other hand, if fans cannot wait until Grotonfest to get their copies, they can visit the publisher’s website at http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1551223 and order a copy there.