"I love the person who says, 'I don't photograph well, I'm not photogenic,'" says local photographer Larry Zurligen. "I love the look on their faces when they see the pictures I've taken of them and they say, 'wow, I look good' and maybe just no one had gotten it right before. I always say, 'Hey! Just give me a chance!'"




Larry Zurligen's art is the portrait. He's done commercial photography, menus, graphic design, and many, many weddings, but what he always comes back to is the portrait. Zurligen has been creating and distributing gift certificates, giving them to charities and low income families so that they could enjoy professional portraits of their families as well.




"I don't want to be rich," said Zurligen, "Not that I would mind. But I really just want to be happy doing what I love."




"I've done professional community stuff, like a nice spread for Allyson's Kitchen, menu work for Ashland Bonsai, photographing art work for local artists," said Zurligen, who now works for Ashland Magazine in advertising, where he also designs many of the ads himself.




Zurligen started his college career studying to be a high school teacher, studying health sciences and physical education. The reason he changed the course of his life was precipitated by a rather subtle happening.




"It was a matter of, one day a friend of mine had a camera I liked, a simple standard SLR. I bought it and started taking pictures of my friends," said Zurligen. "Then, half way through college, I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. I was never really moved by the other things."




"Of course, I asked myself if I could afford to be a starving artist," said Zurligen. "But I've never really regretted my decision."




Zurligen cited the decision as an opportunity to travel the country, work in large cities, with interesting people, and as a path to personal growth. "Travel's taken me all over"&

166; but what really drew and draws me to photography is making people happy. I make them smile."




"I'm not really funny," said Zurligen. "I've known charismatic photographers that could just get people laughing. I never really know what to say. I just try and find out what I can about people. When someone gets to the shoot and sits down, I don't really know a thing about them."




But that's where the shot is the art. The revelation.




Zurligen, who is married and helps raise foster children, has moved around a lot, but always seems to come back to Ashland, where much of his family lives.




"I've always moved back to Ashland because I love it so much, and I can't stay away long," he said. "We do whatever we can to stay in this great valley and enjoy it"&

166; I went to high school here!"




"I'd love to teach portrait photography classes," said Zurligen. "But around here that market is somewhat cornered. My ultimate goal is to find someone who wants to invest in a professional portrait school. There's nothing like that in the Rogue Valley. Once there was one in Medford, for awhile, but not anymore."




Just the same, throughout the years, Zurligen has taught classes throughout the Valley with what he sees as moderate success. "I ran into two ladies in town recently who both run photography businesses now," said Zurligen, who had previously taught them. "They came up to me and said, 'thanks Larry, for giving us our start.' That makes me feel good. I've had some success stories."




"Some photographers ask me why I'd help the competition," said Zurligen, noting a prominence of aspiring photographers, particularly in Ashland. "I figure, if you can't beat them, join them. A lot of people around here want to be photographers. I figure, why not help them become better?"




"I also love working with local businesses," said Zurligen. "I'm always willing to help. I want them to know that. Sometimes I even do trade work with them (rather than monetary compensation). Some of my relatives own local businesses here ... That's something important to me."




See more of Larry Zurligen's work at his Web site,