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Capturing memories of comfort, tranquility and solace
Richard Badger is a modest photographer.
Not so much in his methods or his images, but more so in the way that he talks about his work — constantly referencing “the great photographers” whom he aspires to be like, consistently giving credit for the methods he’s learned from others, remaining humbly devoted to honing his craft in response to compliments. He’s just a soft-spoken guy with a love of animals, nature and photography, doing what he loves to do. And now he’s doing it for a living.
A profile of Bainbridge veterinarian-turned-nature-photographer, Richard Badger, and his special exhibit up at The Gallery at Grace.
While he barely lets on, it seems like there’s more to it than that.
The name, Richard Badger, might sound familiar if you’ve ever taken a pet to the Day Road Animal Hospital on Bainbridge Island. It’s the perfect name for a veterinarian. And Badger was, indeed, the lead vet there for years. He founded the clinic in 1981 and retired from the practice, following a three-decades-long career in 1999, to pursue life through photography.
“I miss the animals,” Badger said when I talked with him about a new exhibit of his work up at the island’s Gallery at Grace. “Although, a lot of what I do now is with animals ... so I still get to be around them, only in a more relaxed way.”
Retired from the stresses of managing a health care business laden with conflicts of empathy and the reality of running a practice, Badger now travels to amazing places around the country with the purpose of practicing photography and admiring the scenery. It’s not surprising that animals have found their way back into his work.
Entering the Gallery at Grace, the main wall is lined with stark winter wildlife portraits, mostly in black and white — from a brown bear cub belly deep in snow drifts to a prowling, yellow-eyed gray wolf to a statuesque Siberian tiger. Across the room, the most colorful piece of the show — a greenery-draped waterfall portrait seemingly emanating its own kind of emerald essence — looks a bit lonely in its lushness. Directly behind me, there’s a striking black-and-white portrait of sunlight slicing through clouds above the barren expanse of an Utah desert. Badger waves a sense of peace through them all.
And I think to myself, “Memories of comfort, reflections of God?”
“For as long as I can remember, I have found that I am the most at peace when surrounded by the natural world,” Badger writes in his artist statement. “My photography allows me to capture my experience so that I might cling to the memories of comfort, tranquility and solace long after returning to a world of stress and responsibility.
“It’s a little schmaltzy,” he says to me later, “but that’s truly how I feel. I’m not a terribly spiritual person, but when I get to those places, I feel that way. The hope and the goal is for that to come out in the work.”
Which it does, making Badger’s exhibit well-fit for the Gallery at Grace — which is also incidentally a progressive Episcopal church. Badger isn’t a member of the church, but his friend, John Crane — who recently passed away from a battle with leukemia — knew that Badger’s photography would be a perfect fit for Grace. The show is dedicated to his memory.
“Here’s a guy fighting for his life and going through all the hell that he’s going through ... and he’s thinking about helping me,” Badger notes with gratitude.
Of course he’s not going to say no to that. But Badger said he was especially taken by John and his disease because a few years ago, his first wife, with whom he’d built his veterinary practice and had two children — died suddenly, at age 44, within two weeks of contracting leukemia.
“That’s probably the nidus of all this,” Badger said, referencing his pursuit photography and confirming the inkling that there’s more to this soft-spoken guy who likes to take pictures.
He’s following his dream.
“We all talk about what we’re going to do someday,” he says. “We’re all guilty of that. But I got the lesson pretty early that you never know when that day might come.”
‘MEMORIES OF COMFORT’ the photography of Richard Badger will hang through December at the Gallery at Grace, 8595 Day Road on Bainbridge. Gallery hours are from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m.-noon Sundays. Info: www.gracehere.org, www.richardbadgerphoto.com.