Picture Perfect

Take a trip to the Laurel Highlands and join Christian James on a photographic journey at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Altoona.

Photos by Christian James & courtesy SAMA


Picture this: Beneath an azure sky, a red beach umbrella perches lazily on a soupçon of white sand amid the sun-dappled shallows of the sea. Use your imagination to add tropical heat, the sounds of waves, the fragrance of warm brine, a beach chair and perhaps the clinking of ice in a glass — a virtual getaway.

By this time of summer, many of you have already taken vacations, and you’ve likely snapped some photos. The above description of a picturesque beach is inspired by an image taken by Bedford County native Christian James. It might seem like a really great vacation photo. In fact, when someone insists on showing you a slideshow of vacation photos, these are the kind of lapidary images that can make the experience more exciting. But James’ picture is more than just a beautiful image — it’s visual artistry rather than visual journal or record.

James is an accomplished landscape photographer. His exhibition “Journey of a Lifetime: The Photography of Christian James” at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art’s branch in Altoona, where James now resides, is the culmination of a lifelong dream. The show’s title might be a bit misleading. A self-taught photographer, James had been honing his talent for some time. But he only recently left behind the corporate world to dedicate himself wholly to photography.

Now five years and 250,000 miles later, James has achieved remarkable success. His photography is represented in the collections of celebrities and other notables; it’s been on view in galleries and has appeared in publications. It’s also been featured on a Japanese TV show, providing James with international exposure.

He’s been recognized professionally with the award of Master Photographer from the Professional Photographers of North America. In 2012, James launched ProPhotoSpots, which has become a marketplace for photographers to exchange ideas as well as market and sell their work.

“I feel very lucky and blessed to spend my life in the world’s most beautiful places,” says James. “Although I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from my work, photography is really about sharing what you are experiencing with others.”


Other experiences James will share at the Altoona show include journeys to places such as Emerald Bay at Lake Tahoe, Calif.; Multnomah Falls near Portland, Ore.; Bahia Honda State Park in Key West, Fla.; and Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse in Nova Scotia. Images in stark contrast will also be on view — winterscapes such as “Christmas in Pittsburgh,” a view of the Golden Triangle captured during the holiday season; and “Holiday Express,” showing an old steam locomotive chugging through an icy landscape.

Speaking of trains, a jaunt to Altoona and the Laurel Highlands can be fun for a day trip or even a mini-vacation as summer winds down. While there, consider a visit to Altoona’s Railroaders Memorial Museum (814/946-0834, railroadcity.com) or to the famous Horseshoe Curve. You can also make a scenic sweep to the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art’s other locations:

“The Art of Healing Exhibition: Reflections 2013” includes works of art created by patients at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s Arts for Healing program (through Aug. 23).

(Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Johnstown, Cambria County; 814/269-7234, johnstown@sama-art.org, sama-art.org)

“Highlights From the Permanent Collection: Celebration of the Wolf Family Donations” (through Aug. 4) and “Frudakis: Two Generations of Sculpture,” which showcases work by a Greek-American family (Aug. 16-Nov. 10).

(1 Boucher Lane and Route 711, Ligonier, Westmoreland County; 724/238-6015, ligonier@sama-art.org, sama-art.org)

“Stories Joyfully Embroidered: Shaanxi Folk Textiles From Northern China” marks the U.S. premiere showing of this collection of contemporary fiber art (through Oct. 12). “Seeing the Invisible: Paintings by Barbara Wachter” offers the latest canvases by this Altoona native, who works in the Impressionist style (through Dec. 7).

(St. Francis University campus, Loretto, Cambria County; 814/472-3920, loretto@sama-art.org, sama-art.org)


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