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Artist Spotlight: Jenion Tyson

April 26, 2018 GMT

LAKE CITY, S.C. – Jenion Tyson is a beekeeper, gardener and artist who lives with his wife in their “eclectic” neighborhood in North Charleston.

The photographer said in his artist statement that his work in this year’s ArtFields is named for a barrier island south of Charleston. “Botany Bay,” was devastated during Hurricane Matthew. The only causeway to the island was reopened to the public months later. Hurricane Irma washed away this solitary beauty, he said, but that came after he had captured it.

“I think I first heard about ArtFields when a friend of mine (Paul Bowers) wrote an article about it for the Charleston City Paper,” Tyson said. “It must have been one of the first years. I meant to visit a couple of years, but it didn’t happen.” He said he has enjoyed taking photographs and “had gotten a lot of positive feedback from friends and family,” but he had never entered a competition.

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That changed in 2013. He entered the weekly photo contest in the Post and Courier newspaper and later the Coastal Carolina Fair and North Charleston Arts Fest juried photography shows. Then, in 2016, he said, he decided to enter ArtFields 2017.

“I had no idea whether it was good enough for a ‘real’ art show,” Tyson said. “It was a photo of a dead tree on the ‘bone yard beach’ at Bulls Island in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.”

Tyson said he thought the picture was striking, even “desolate as a black-and-white photo.” He said he was thrilled to be accepted then, and again this year.

“I had a few other successes at the same time,” he said. “I was asked to do a month-long show at the Georgetown County Library’s Heritage Center in January 2017, and I was in a couple of shows at Fabulon Art, a gallery in Charleston.”

Tyson said having his work in those shows boosted his confidence, adding that he has learned “it was a lot of work to get photos ready for shows.”

He said he knew he would enter ArtFields 2018, but his favorite photo “happened to be another dead tree on the beach!”

While this year’s photograph is “very different from the first one … I’ve always been interested in the beauty of nature,” he said. “I want to say its fragility, too, but, for the most part, it seems to recover. Like the dead trees on the beach, where the ocean has moved in? There’s probably more land now on the other side of the island where sand has built up. But the cycle for this is long.”

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Tyson said he spent many hours on Pawleys Island growing up, and he became aware of the same cycles of nature there.

“You would see the same thing,” he said. “One year the north end had a lot of extra sand, and maybe the next year it was the south end.” Tyson said he first photographed birds.

“I can be a little obsessive,” he said. “I want to photograph every bird. I eventually come to my senses, but I do get photos of birds that you don’t see every day.”

And that premise is true with some of the long exposure photography he’s done, he said.

“It gives you a different perspective, one that you will never have without the photo,” he said. “The astrophotography is the same. You’ll never be able to see those deep sky objects with the naked eye like you will in photos. Ditto with macro photography.”

In 2009 Tyson started a gardening blog. He became a master gardener in 2012. He was taking pictures for his blog and over the years became more interested in photography. In 2013 he bought a more professional camera, and that move opened a whole new world for him, he said.

In 2013, he began to take nature photography seriously after winning the weekly photo contest in the Post and Courier. Since then, Tyson has exhibited his photos in the North Charleston Arts Fest as well as the Coastal Carolina Fair Photography Show, where he recently won two honorable mentions.

“I like music, listening to it, playing it, but I haven’t spent a lot of time on it lately,” he said. “... My wife and I like puzzles and trivia … and we’ve gotten into playing board games in the past couple of years. … Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, and Carcassonne, games like that.”

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