Visual Arts

Cover Artist: Joye Ardyn Durham

Autumn Maple

By Frances Figart

When Glenn and Jean Durham named their second daughter, they couldn’t have chosen a more apt moniker for one who would take immense joy in the creative process and impart great joy to others through her creations.

“I’ve always been creative,” says Joye Ardyn Durham, The Laurel’s photo editor. “Creating was a way of life in my family.”

With her older sister, Jan, and younger brother, Jeff, Joye grew up in eastern Kentucky near Harlan, where Glenn and Jean, now in their nineties, still live in the very same house. The Durhams took their kids hiking in the mountains and instilled in them an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. “Mom and Dad would wake us up if there was a storm and take us to the front window to see the lightning,” Joye remembers.

Her maternal grandmother lived three doors down and sewed burial clothes for their small community in the Appalachian foothills. While Jean cooked, sewed and managed accounting, Glenn owned a print shop and made photographic images for postcards throughout the state.

“When I was nine, Dad took me with him to Fort McCook on the Kentucky/Tennessee border,” Joye recalls. “He showed me a cannon that was on display and told me I would be taking the picture so I needed to determine the best position for shooting. I walked all around the cannon and decided that the viewer should see not only the cannon itself, but also the direction in which it could be fired. To this day, I remember that moment and the feeling of excitement as I went through the process of creating an image for others to see.”

In high school, Joye was the yearbook photo editor. During the summer before her senior year, she began studying theatre at nearby Morehead State University, continuing there after graduating from high school in 1976. She worked behind the camera at WLEX in Lexington, KY, spent ’78 and ’79 on the staff at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center near Black Mountain, NC and taught photography for Centrifuge camps in Alabama, New Mexico and on the West Coast.

Nurturing a growing interest in psychology, Joye earned her BA in behavioral science from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN in 1985. Continual involvement with Christian camps eventually led her to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, where in 1988 she got her MACE degree (Master of Arts in Christian Education). After several years as an associate pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL, Joye relocated to WNC, opening the Gingko Tree Gallery and frame shop in Black Mountain in 1994 and starting the freelance business she continues today, under the name Artist with Camera.

While many photographers specialize in one type of work, Joye finds both inspiration and motivation from a diversity of project types and styles. She enjoys the full spectrum, from her well-loved mountain landscapes to macro photography, from posed pet and people portraits to shots of wildlife such as bear, elk and birds.

“Shooting wildlife images is a meditative experience because you have to anticipate what the animal is going to do next and be ready to snap,” she says. “I really love abstract photography as well as long exposure photography with intentional camera movement. It opens up a whole new feel and way of expressing yourself.”

Joye also does staged product photography for a variety of clients and has provided framing services for nearly a quarter of a century. This summer, she experimented with a new way of “framing” when she and her sister Jan Durham, who creates mixed media textile pieces, had a joint show called Sibling Artistry at Black Mountain Center for the Arts.

“My pieces for that show incorporated used tea bags as the background,” she says. “I printed my photos on the tea bags, then encased them in encaustic medium. I love it.”

Joye says she is always creating or thinking of what to create next and gets ideas everywhere, even while doing mundane chores. “In order to get a really good piece, I have to feel it and know that the emotion will be carried throughout the image.” Among her infl uences are Georgia O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams, abstract photographer Stephanie Jung, long-exposure photographer Stephen McNally and fi lmmaker Wes Anderson.

“Creating images is that ‘thing.’ You know, that thing you do that takes you away from every other thing. When I am out shooting, whether it be a sunrise, a family pet, the sky after a storm, a wild animal or a plate of food, I lose all sense of past and future. I am there in the moment, completely present.”

Joye concludes that when you are a photographer, you are also a weather person. “You watch the weather conditions as if they were an old friend coming to visit,” she says. “You have to prepare and get ready. You make sure your equipment is ready. You get up at four in the morning. You travel, sometimes hours, to that special destination, all the while getting excited about what you will see.

“And then, there it is: the light. The light that carries with it new opportunities to create. Creating images is my gift to share and I am grateful beyond words.”

Joye Ardyn Durham closed her Gingko Tree Gallery this year on April 1, after exactly 23 years to the day. She lives in Black Mountain with Lib Mullinnix and their border collie, Starbuck. Her work can be seen at The Compleat Naturalist in Asheville’s Biltmore Village and in Black Mountain at The Red House, Black Mountain Center for the Arts and in the permanent collection at the Monte Vista Hotel. A new exhibit of her work, Nothing Could Be Finer, photographs of the Carolinas, will be displayed at Green Sage Café South at 1800 Hendersonville Road in Asheville from October 15 through December. Learn more at and

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