Pendleton Photographer’s Work to Go On Display at Arts Center

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Nomadic hunters in Mongolia with their helpers - golden eagles. (Photo by Debbie McIntosh)

The photographs of Debbie McIntosh will fill the East Oregonian Gallery at the Pendleton Center for the Arts (PCA) beginning Thursday, June 10.

The solo exhibition is titled Mongolia Winter Migration. The event opens with a virtual artist’s reception at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and is open for in-person gallery visits through June 30. Admission to the gallery is free and open to the public.

McIntosh credits her daughter, Lindsay, for renewing her interest in photography. Lindsay was studying photography at Pendleton High School, and she would take photos on their shared hikes in the Wallowa mountains. After hearing, “You should take a picture of” too many times, Lindsay finally told her mom, “Why don’t you take your OWN pictures?”

The first time one of McIntosh’s photos was displayed on a gallery wall, it won an award. It was 2007, and her piece won the People’s Choice Award in the Open Regional exhibit at the PCA.

Twenty-three photographs document McIntosh’s recent photography expedition to Mongolia, a landlocked country in Central Asia and East Asia, located between China and Russia. The terrain is one of mountains and rolling plateaus, marked by high elevation, and a cold, dry climate. The country averages 257 cloudless days a year. But it was the people who inspired McIntosh to brave the harsh terrain.

The Kazakh nomadic herders and hunters of Mongolia travel to feed their livestock, mainly yaks, camels, goats, sheep, and horses, and occasionally they allow groups of photographers and writers, with a small support team, to accompany them. Many families travel together, moving every six weeks, following vegetation that is sparce because of the harsh conditions. Finding fresh pastures for their livestock is getting more and more difficult, as climate disrupts the traditional routes and timelines. The temperature on McIntosh’s trip was almost always below zero. She never had less than four layers of clothing on, and camera batteries were kept close to the body to keep them protected.

The journey was an amazing thing to document, but the Kazakh people’s hunting technique provided a next level of photographic inspiration. They hunt with the help of golden eagles, in a falconry tradition that dates back to the Bronze age.

There will be time during the artist’s reception for guests to ask questions about McIntosh’s photographs and her experience on in Mongolia. For a link to the Zoom artist’s reception, email director@pendletonarts.org or call 541-310-7413. More information can be found at PendletonArts.org.

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