The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Josie Braaten
The Courier 

Photographer Aims at What She Loves


August 9, 2017

Audra Ortega / For The Courier

Local photographer Audra Ortega has several works of art available for sale at Shippwrecked, located at 227 5th Street S. in Glasgow.

Longtime local rancher and now photographer, Audra Ortega received her first camera as a Christmas gift only two years ago. Originally requested in order to better document her first daughter's early years, the camera was soon Ortega's constant companion on every manner of ranch errands and tasks.

Coming from a family who has ranched in the area for generations, Ortega has a deep love and respect for the lifestyle that is intertwined with the business of ranching. Upon beginning her photography journey, she realized what a major outlet it could to express the passion for the lifestyle that she not only cherishes but is a vital part of her identity. Photographing the ranch itself, and the varied scope of activities that keep it running, also allows Ortega to continue the visual record of it compiled by her mother and grandfather, a task that Ortega feels honored to be able to perform.

"Take the photo because you love what you're trying to capture," says Ortega of her subject matter. This philosophy is exemplified in all of her pieces, which portray subjects she has an emotional connection with. This includes her family, along with the livestock and land itself that supports their beloved ranch. Natural, spontaneously occurring images are also what Ortega prefers to photograph, though this preference presents its challenges. "The most difficult thing is getting your image on the camera to match what you see in real life," says Ortega, "The light's changing, the cows are shifting. You have maybe a minute or two to try to get the shot you want."

With practice, time, and an increasing comfort and familiarity with her camera though, she says that she is getting more efficient at working through these unknown elements. "I used to just take loads of pictures and hope one of them turned out, my style is definitely more refined now," remarks Ortega on her growth and development as a photographer. Along with patience and perseverance, her mother, Madeline Cornwell, also has had a huge impact on Ortega's artistic refinement, especially through advising with the editing process of her photos.

Though she has pieces for sale in both Shippwrecked and Hot Shots Espresso, she has no interest in expanding her commercial presence. "I don't want this to become my job, I just want to share my passion," Ortega explained when detailing why she had no interest in selling more prints. Instead, her main focus is simply to share her love for her home and her pride in the lifestyle her family sustains. "I don't want to feel like I'm selling my soul," said Ortega, emphasizing the emotional connection she has with her photos, which makes marketing them on a large scale unappealing.

This emotional connection is particularly apparent in her favorite piece on display in Shippwrecked; an image featuring her great-grandfather's barn (built in 1913), her family's horses on the ridge behind it, with an American flag wafting gently in the forground. "It represents it all," says Ortega, "Old, new, patriotism, family," a photo that is certainly a visual representation of Ortega's passion for her lifestyle which is the ultimate inspiration for her art.


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