By Chris Honoré
Tidings Correspondent


It’s no small thing to take up a camera and see the world through a lens in a way that others cannot. Orville Hector discovered that he could capture the images in a unique and remarkable way when he was 12-years-old and living in Irvington, New Jersey. It was a revelation and it was life changing.

Hector had come to America from Jamaica with his mother and 10 other family members when he was 10-years-old. At first it was a difficult adjustment and he felt like a stranger in a strange land. He had never seen a building taller than three stories, and was overwhelmed by the sounds: yellow taxis, traffic, people honking, endless streams of people. “The only things I remember when I arrived at JFK airport in New York was passing through customs and how people stopped and they would look at us. And the tall buildings that disappeared into the clouds.” As well, he had a Jamaican accent that the kids immediately took notice of and not in a kind way.

In middle school, a teacher asked all of the students to bring in photos of their childhood for a project. “I was the only person who didn’t have photos to bring in.” Hector watched all of the kids having fun talking about their family photos and felt sadly excluded. His teacher, in a moment of inspiration, gave Hector a disposable camera and asked him to take pictures of the students working on their projects. “I became the class photographer. It was a beginning for me.”

That experience led to more photography classes in high school where he was mentored by Derrick Peynado, a professional photographer and also his math teacher. “He taught me to shoot images of anything and get paid to do it. I worked with him all through high school until I moved to Oregon.”

Hector and his wife, Danya, came to Ashland in 1998. They now have a son, Devon, age six. For five years Hector worked at a body repair shop, a place that taught him a great deal about people and that they come in all sizes and attitudes. “I met some great people there and unfortunately some not so nice ones. I also learned to be strong when things don’t turn out the way you might want them to. Most of all I learned how to be kind.”

During the same period, he opened a photography studio in Ashland specializing in portraits.

Hector is now in his final semester at Southern Oregon University, majoring in art with an emphasis in photography. He is also the Photo Editor for the Ashland Daily Tidings where his photos appear weekly.

To graduate from SOU, he must complete what is called a “Capstone Project.” Hector will produce “mommy,” an open-to-the-public photographic exhibition at the Retzlaff Gallery (part of the Center for the Visual Arts) on the campus of SOU. His show will focus on maternity and those magical months when a woman is pregnant. His images will include a montage of evocative portraits of women, their bellies distended, the skin taught, with belly buttons bulging. All are compelling. Most are seminude: a young mother-to-be stands ever so serenely, an arm covering her swollen breasts, a hand resting gently on her swollen stomach, acknowledging that just beneath that thin epidermis is a life, securely cradled, ever changing, which will soon emerge and nothing will ever be the same again. The women are luminescent, peaceful, yet filled with anticipation. There are some photographs that include expectant fathers and children. One photo is especially lovely in that the very pregnant mother, her tumescent stomach revealed, is framed by her husband and their two children in a way that conveys that already the small infant, yet to be in the world, will be embraced and nurtured. It is an image of family that words cannot fully describe.

Some time ago Hector discovered a growing interest in this particular moment in a woman’s life. “It started off with me seeing someone who was obviously pregnant, holding her back and belly, walking side to side in that special way a pregnant woman has. I decided I wanted to photograph these women. To pause and capture a moment in time that would then stay with them forever, even after the memory of childbirth has faded, something that would last for generations.”

His wish was to listen to the individual to be photographed, drawing her out, and finding that aspect that was unique and special. Images are like Zebras, said Hector. “At first blush they may look the same, but they aren’t and it’s that subtle difference that I want to capture.”

Orville Hector’s exhibition, “mommy,” will be held at the Retzlaff Gallery on the campus of Southern Oregon University. The show will run from January 8 through February 2, 2007. There will be a special “meet the artist” reception from 5-7 p.m. on Jan. 11. Part of the reception will include an opportunity to donate to the local nonprofit organization, Peace House. For further information about the exhibition call the Retzlaff Gallery at 541-552-8315.

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