Downtown Sioux Falls was jam-packed with events last Friday, including photographer Bonny Fleming’s art exhibit at the Eastbank Art Gallery at 8th & Railroad Center. Joined by the works of member watercolorist Jim Heroux and painter Judith Edenstrom, Bonny’s eye for the everyday landscapes and nature in South Dakota is awe-inspiring. We caught up with the Rapid City artist to find out about her latest exhibit, her work with photography and how she grabs these amazing moments.
I’ve had a camera in my hands since I was 12. My mom let me use her SLR on a trip to Yellowstone, and I never really gave it back. I’ve always been shooting, and my photos were always good. It wasn’t until the last five or six years, though, that I really started to make it a (pro)thing.
I’m inspired by how beautiful it all is and like the challenge of trying to capture it and share it with others. I try to be as true to the subject as possible. I’m moved every day by how beautiful it is out there, and consider it a bit of an obligation to document it.
Mostly, I just drive around. I go at times when the light is good or the sky is interesting, or there’s something happening with the weather. We’re fortunate over here in the Black Hills to have an extreme variety of landscapes and animals. I kind of let the moment take me, I watch the sky and look for where the light is going to be most interesting. Part of the fun of it all is setting off, not sure what you are going to find (if you find anything at all), and being totally blown away by what you witness going on out there. Specifically though, I love the back gravel roads north of town, Custer State Park and Wind Cave, and the Badlands.
How did you pick the name of the exhibit, I Meant to Do My Work Today?
The name of the exhibit is named after a poem in a book my mom would read to us when we were children, called Silver Pennies. Her mother read it to her when she was a little girl, and I have since acquired a copy of it and read it to my daughter. There’s many wonderful poems that ring through my head at any given moment, but that one has always resonated. I think anyone can relate to the feeling of knowing there’s stuff you should be doing, but get called away because the rest of the world is so much more interesting.
What is one of your favorite pieces in the exhibit and why?
Oh, it’s so hard for me to choose a favorite. The problem I think any photographer faces when answering that question is that they have more attached to the piece than the piece of artwork. Each of those photos has a backstory and some antidote of what I went through or what journey I was on to get the shot. Sometimes I love the piece for a completely different reason than what’s hanging on the wall.
It’s impossible to pick one favorite, but one of my best stories unfolded in the attempt to get one of the shots. I had kayaked across a lake in the Hills called Bismarck Lake, as I was paddling I noticed a large nest on top of a tree on the far side of the lake, so I got myself to the shore and climbed up some large granite rocks to discover it was an osprey nest and it was active. There was a couple taking turns sitting on the nest, and I had the perfect vantage point for the shot so I set up my gear and waited for them to do something. I guess I was so caught up in the excitement I neglected to notice that a storm was rolling in… okay, I noticed it, but I was optimistic that it was going to go around …. It didn’t. I was able to get all my gear packed back up, but by that time the lightening and thunder were striking pretty regularly, and I didn’t dare risk the paddle back across the lake to my car, so I found a rock and took shelter under it. I packed all my gear behind me to protect it from the rain (and hail), and I sat and waited. Eventually, the storm passed. I was soaked, but my gear was dry. The sun followed quickly, and I climbed back out onto my ledge just in time to catch one of the osprey landing on the nest.