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Passion into profession

Photographer’s art to be on display

Johnson City Press 

Chuck Rector remembers the precise moment when his love affair with photography began.

It was in the summer of 1986 as Rector’s father took he and his brother out to view a sunrise over the ocean in Jacksonville, Fla.

Rector saw a ship out in the distance, which was about to pass directly under the rising sun. He began thinking of a way to capture the image he was about to witness. With no tripod handy, Rector steadied his Canon AE-1 atop a trash can.

As the ship passed underneath the sun Rector pressed the button on his cable release. He didn’t realize what image he had captured that morning in Florida, but when he got the film developed and saw the image, he was hooked.

Thinking before snapping the shot and trying to set the image up in his head became the way Rector has viewed photography since that morning in 1986.

“I put a lot of thought into my work and stuff. Each picture is not a snap, point and shoot. I really think about each thing I do,” Rector said, as he looked around at his work. “I plan ahead. I kind of know what I want before I take the camera out of the bag, but I do live for the candid moments.”

Rector has assembled an exhibit at the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site titled “Thoughtful Eye,” a collection of photographs from around eastern Tennessee and North Carolina, which demonstrate that thought process at work.

Having grown up in Kingsport, Rector left Tennessee in 1996 to pursue other job opportunities around the country. After getting laid off from a job in Dallas, Rector moved back to East Tennessee.

Unsure of what to do with his life, Rector decided it was time to begin pursuing photography as a viable full-time job.

“I wanted to try something completely different. Photography was just a hobby for me (at the time). Then I decided I wanted to make my dream into a reality,” Rector said.

After enrolling at Milligan College in 2005, Rector began taking courses in photography. It was at Milligan where he finally began to feel like he was growing as a photographer.

“College really opened it up for me. I was able to look at things better,” Rector said.

His newfound excitement for photography allowed him to see east Tennessee in a way he hadn’t seen before.

“I think Tennessee is just a beautiful state. To me I’m documenting, because things change so much. There’s a lot of history here,” Rector said. “I’ve lived around, but when I came back here, there’s just nothing that can compare with the landscape.”

“Thoughtful Eye” features a mixture of digital and traditional film prints, most of which were taken during Rector’s time at Milligan College. One series features Milligan science professor Dave Roberts as he restores tractors on his farm. Another series features various landscapes of Cherry Hill Farm, a farm owned by retired Milligan professor Linda Doan. Rector also has a series of photographs of the Biltmore estate in Asheville, N.C.

Although Rector used to only dabble in film, he’s come to find an appreciation for digital photography.

“The digital (camera) helps me get my composition right. It kind of trains me, because I do so much with it. I can take so many shots and look and see what I did wrong. I can make each shot count,” Rector said.

Since graduating from Milligan in May, Rector hopes to turn his passion for photography into the job he’s always wanted. He’s working on creating a Web site, which will allow people to purchase his prints. Rector has also been working on portraits of various people in the area. He hopes his work will inspire people to get out and use their talents to do something creative.

When asked about what he wants people to see in his work, Rector simply said, “I want people to see how I think and that I really care about my photography.”

“Thoughtful Eye” will run throughout the summer at the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site, 2620 S. Roan St.

Johnson City Press Article


MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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