Power, Grace and Beauty
Photographs by Steven W. Donahue

During his fifty-year career as a photographer and master black-and-white photographic printer, Steven Donahue photographed many subjects:  nature, small towns, cities and people. His portraits reveal his deep connection and communication with each person he photographed. This selection of abstract nudes, goddesses, nudes, and portraits is about the inner strength, grace and beauty that he recognized in people he encountered in his daily life. The work spans several decades. The earliest nudes were photographed in the 1960s in Chicago. The earliest portraits displayed here were photographed in Chicago in the 1960s and Michigan in the 1970s. The goddesses, abstract nudes, and most of the portraits were photographed in Albuquerque between 1995 and 2011.

Most of the photographs were taken in a studio with lighting that was sometimes influenced by the work of George Hurrell, but some were shot in the woods along the Rio Grande (New Mexico) or in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Many of the models are women that Steven encountered in his daily life and not professional models.

In an artist statement for a photo exhibition in May 2007 Steven stated, “For years I have been fascinated with the notion that goddesses and muses are hidden within women I see every day. The waitress at the coffee shop I frequent is Diana the Huntress, my co-worker is a cloud goddess and a customer is a muse. Sometimes I encourage a model to choose the goddess, muse or nymph that they see in themselves. Rose saw herself as a light airy and energetic figure. I also saw that she had inner strength and perseverance personified in the goddess Persephone.”

In one of his last group of portraits, there are staged photographs, mostly with female models posed as the afore-mentioned mythological figures such as mermaids, goddesses, angels, etc. These were his most ambitious and complex works, often combining photography with hand coloring, superimposition of images and digital enhancement. Sixteen of these photographs were included in his memorial exhibition in 2016[1].

Most of the prints are black-and-white silver gelatin prints. Some are tinted, some are hand-colored with transparent or deep toned opaque oils, some are double exposures of nature and female figures done by sandwiching negatives in the enlarger, and a few are digital photographs that were manipulated using Adobe Photoshop.

[1] “The Silver Show: A Tribute to Steven Donahue (1944-2013)”, Artistic Image Gallery, Albuquerque, May 2016.