It's a curious career path that has led Stephen and Karen Strom to the Open Shutter Gallery, where the Sonoita, Ariz., couple's photographs will be the subject of a joint exhibit for the next month or so.
Both are former research astronomers who worked at a variety of the top institutions in the U.S. before becoming full-time professional photographers. It was an association with a former colleague at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Richard White, that led to what would otherwise be a seemingly random choice for the Durango gallery's latest exhibit.
"Richard retired and lives in Durango, and he suggested we stop by and talk to Margy," Stephen Strom said, referring to Open Shutter owner Margy Dudley.
"So we did, we loved the gallery, and I guess she liked what we had and we set this up," he said.
The Stroms are quite different in their photographic styles, but not so much as to create incongruity in a joint show like this.
Stephen Strom said he primarily chooses the landscapes and scenery of the Southwest for subject matter, while Karen opts for interior shots of interesting homes and inns from Italy to the Pacific Northwest to West Texas.
"She goes into a home or a (bed and breakfast) and cases the joint for windows, rooms or arrangements that would complement some vision she's got. We've imposed on various neighbors more than once to find just the right windows," he said.
The current exhibit is heavier on Stephen's photos; 34 of his to just about 10 of Karen's. That disparity is evidence of the differences in processing, because his images are typically unretouched landscapes and hers require more work to juxtapose the interior scenes with a completely different view of the outside world.
"She'll often take several weeks or months tweaking images after she's made the initial mock-up," Stephen Strom said.
"But in a broader sense, both of us tend to mull a great deal about images; your vision evolves over time and there are times along that evolutionary path where you stop and say 'this is what I'm trying to do.' We spend a lot of time looking backwards and suddenly things come together."