By Josie Gulliksen/ Florida Keys News Bureau
Influenced by both her parents’ love of the outdoors and her mother’s creative background, Valerie Fecher picked up a camera and began taking photographs at an early age.
Her inspiration to become a shutterbug came from her mother, a painter, who also passed her artistic drive down to Fecher’s sisters. One became a sculptor and the other a craftsperson. The natural world also has exerted an ongoing influence on Fecher, dating from a 1967 family camping trip in Alaska.
These days, she goes regularly to the Everglades with her lobsterman father, where they ride around on their airboat capturing images that she uses in her shows. On one of their treks, she was lucky enough to spot and photograph a rarely seen Florida panther.
Fecher grew up in Miami and recalls coming down to Knights Key on weekends. By the time she turned 14, her parents had chosen to move permanently to the Florida Keys.
“In 1971, my parents decided to leave the rat race behind and move me and my two sisters down to the Keys,” said Fecher, who lived on Big Pine Key and attended Marathon High School. “Big Pine was a small rural area back then and they liked that.”
Upon graduating from high school, Fecher attended Florida Keys Community College, where she honed her darkroom skills in the medium of black-and-white photography. She subsequently received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography from Florida International University in Miami, where she continued to work primarily in black and white.
Fecher eventually built a darkroom in her home that she used to develop her photos until it seemed the right time to embrace digital photography.
Nature and the water play a large role in her work, so she often takes off in a kayak right from her property on Big Pine to seek compelling images.
Today, Fecher is one of the 41 members of Big Pine’s Artists in Paradise Gallery, where her mother is a founding member, and happily displays her work in the gallery’s shows.
“I’ve been with them about a decade, and the photography I show is mostly images from the Everglades and the Keys,” she said. “The gallery has grown tremendously over the years from its original 13 members.”
Fecher’s husband, a fishing guide, shares her love of the outdoors. Most of their vacations are very active, generally including kayaking or snorkeling.
While photographing outdoor subjects is her primary passion, portrait photography is Fecher’s second love. She even enjoys shooting portraits of local kids dressed up for Halloween.
Her latest projects include refining some of her pieces for the gallery’s 15th annual judged show in January, and focusing on photographs for the Pete Rosin Scholarship Fund Auction in March. The auction benefits Florida Keys high school seniors seeking to continue their education in the arts.
Her photos for the auction and her upcoming shows no doubt will reflect her passion for the beauty of the natural world she finds along the island chain that is both her home and her inspiration.
To see the world viewed through Valerie Fecher’s lens, visit vsfecher.zenfolio.com.
Nature and the water play a large role in Fecher's work, so she often takes off in a kayak to seek compelling images. Photos courtesy of Valerie Fecher
Sunrise in Big Pine.
Mangrove forests in the Content Keys.