Petal to the mettle

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Posted April 15, 2022 | By Julie Garisto
Correspondent

“Starry starry days”

A rose by another name? If you’re asking emerging fine art photographer Rose Derkay, she’s seen roses and other flowers from all angles through the lens of her Nikon. She’s examined petals, pistils, carpels and stamens in ways many of us could never imagine.

As we at the Gazette recently learned from photographer Leslie Jean Wengler, looking at flowers close-up gives us a window into another world, one where we are just lumbering giants oblivious to the intricate production process of corollas, scents and textures that attract birds, bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

“I just became very passionate about it,” Derkay said when asked why she became fascinated with capturing flowers. “I was just really attracted to it, and I was shooting bees and butterflies and birds and flowers. And then I just became more tuned into flowers because there’s just so much to capture and you can get 10 different shapes that look different from one photo to the next. Also, flowers make everyone happy.” 

The vocation of the southeast Ocala-based photographer wasn’t feasible in her younger years. “We had six kids, so we really couldn’t afford the film and other stuff back in the day,” she admitted with a laugh. 

Originally from upstate New York, Derkay is gregarious and whip-smart with a cheerful wit, at once a fast-talker with an Italian American zest for life and a velvet-voiced DJ who’s delivered the news on radio and TV in different regions across the U.S. along with doing voice-overs for commercials.

Her next evolutionary step was fine art photography, and if you asked her, it was because her camera lens offers a joyful and organic progression that blossomed over time like her cherished subjects.  

“I would work on weekends DJing shows and different things like that,” she said. “Then when I came here, I was talked into purchasing Family Times magazine and I said, ‘Here’s my opportunity to learn photography.’ I took every opportunity I could. I learned publishing, editing, and I always wanted to be involved in photography. So, the job, of course, came with a beginner’s camera. I started with that, and then, you know, as I got better, I got an intermediate camera and then I bought a professional camera.”

Derkay’s photography hobby grew out of her love of travel. The magazine offered her an opportunity to make work of play. “Putting a travel story together and showing the whole story through photography and melding it with your writing–it’s nice to have that opportunity,” she said.

Derkay sold her media company three years ago and decided to shoot full time. “That pushed me into a new direction,” she said. “Artists around town were saying, ‘Wow, this is good. Do you want to show in my gallery?’ But I wasn’t confident.” 

That would change with practice. The budding photographer got better and better through her work for the magazine, but a push from professional photographer Ralph Demilio helped take her to the next level, encouraging her to take on the manual functions of a professional camera and recommending she read the seminal guidebook, Understanding Exposure. 

“Spray roses”

“Nature is my palette”

This new artistic arena came with invitations to showcase her work in festivals such as the 2021 FAFO (Fine Arts For Ocala) festival. Encouragement from fellow artists and privately owned galleries assured her status and confidence as a fine art photographer. 

“One of my favorite places is Kanapaha Botanical Gardens because it’s just an hour away and every time you go you see something different,” Derkay effused. “I like to go by myself, and sometimes, I’ll linger with one flower for an hour just trying to get that unique view that I’m after. It could be a perfect curve or something that reveals a part of its personality, or the way the light catches it.”

Check out Rose Derkay’s images at rosederkay.com. See Derkay in person at the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival in Amelia Island April 29-May 1. Her work will be featured in the festival’s Fine Arts and Crafts show, which will display more than 300 award-winning artists and craftspeople along with 75 booths of antiques and collectibles and a kids’ fun zone. Visit shrimpfestival.com for details.