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Warwick Valley student artist of the week: Abigael O’Rourke

on October 25, 2019

‘You have to work for the pictures. You have to know how to take the photo properly, how to develop it properly. And, it (the image) may or may not turn out the way you want. It’s about the process.’


Abby O'RourkePhotography plays a significant role in the lives of people.

Whether it’s a party, wedding or graduation, photos are important keepsakes of those events, reminding people of the individuals, places and emotions tied to those occasions.

Photography has the power to communicate to people in its own special language, similar to other art forms.  The imagery can be complex or simple, but there’s always a message to impart or a story to tell.

That’s what Warwick Valley High School senior Abigael O’Rourke looks to do with her photographic images.

“Abby is a highly talented and driven individual,” said Shari Blauner, her art teacher, noting Abby has a wry sense of humor.  “She is the type of person who goes above and beyond for each and every project, producing outstanding results. She grasps concepts quickly and helps her peers do the same. Abby has developed a particular style in photography and excels in portrait photography.”

For these reasons and more, Abby is this week’s Warwick Valley student artist of the week.

A Rolleicord and a Minolta

Abby’s interest in photography began when she was young and her grandfather showed her how to use his father’s Rolleicord 120mm camera.    The Rolleicord was a popular medium-format twin lens reflex camera made by Franke and Heidecke (Rollei) between 1933 and 1976. It was marketed to amateur photographers who wanted a high-quality camera but couldn’t afford the more expensive Rolleiflex.

photo of guy on the grass by Abby O'Rourke

“He showed me it and I asked, ‘What is this box?’” she said. “It was super interesting. He showed me how to work it. I was hooked.”

photo of a girl by Abby O'Rourke

The Rolleicord isn’t the only camera she uses for her work.  Her other is a Minolta 35mm purchased at an auction for only $10. At that crazy price, the functioning camera also came with seven lenses.

“It’s built like a tank,” she said. “It’s definitely my ‘go-to’ camera.”

Abby knows iPhone or Android phone cameras seem to be more popular for everyday camera users versus single-lens reflex cameras.

“My generation is so digital,” she said. “You can take out your phone and take 500 photos in 30 seconds with the press of a button. And if you don’t like the shot, you can delete it. And do it again.”

photo of a man in the water by abby O'Rourke

Abby’s interest in iPhones may be limited to making a call, text or using an app. While others may not know what an F Stop, ISO or shutter speed mean or what a roll of 120mm or 35mm  film look like, she does. 

“I like the ‘retro’ aspect of it,” said Abby, who develops her black and white photos in the school’s darkroom.  “I like that you may have to use six or seven rolls of film to get what you want (in an image.). You have to work for the pictures. You have to know how to take the photo properly, how to develop it properly. And, it (the image) may or may not turn out the way you want. It’s about the process.”

‘It’s your job to make yourself memorable.’

Abby is looking at FIT, SUNY New Paltz or Montclair State College as places to go to earn a photography degree. She’s hopeful to become a photojournalist and perhaps someday capture images of injustice throughout the world.

“If you care enough about photography to make it your profession, then it obviously means something special to you,” she said. “It’s hard to make it big. It’s your job to make yourself memorable.”    

That’s why being memorable includes being really good at telling a photographic story.

“Yes, it does sound ‘cliché-ish,’ but it’s true,” she added. “You want to tell the whole story, so the photo means something more than just a standard photo. It’s about creating a connection.”



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