South Charleston library to feature exhibition of work by photographer Sam McColloch


As a youngster growing up in New Martinsville, W.Va., Sam McColloch and his sisters were frequent subjects of their father’s camera as he snapped away, recording the trivia of everyday life along with fond vacation memories. Photography proved to be a family passion when the young McColloch himself began shooting with his first Brownie reflex camera, little realizing that one day he would be a prize-winning photographer, whose striking black-and-white images would hang in prestigious galleries and be found in numerous private and corporate collections.

Now a sample of his photographs can be seen in a new exhibition opening this month on Marshall’s South Charleston campus. Approximately 30 of his photos will be on display for the exhibit, “From Jackson’s Mill to Paris: The Fine Art Photography of Sam McColloch.” A reception will kick off the exhibit on Friday, March 22, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the library on the South Charleston campus. Both the reception and the exhibit are free and open to the public.

While geology was McCollach’s vocation—he spent 28 years as a geologist with Shell Oil—photography was his avocation and he was successful at both. One of his most famous photographs, a diptych (a related pair of photographs) came about by accident, he says. When two prints, one taken of an ancient field of standing stones in Callanish, Scotland, reminiscent of Stonehenge, and another, a shot of the modern-day Houston, Texas, skyline, ended up randomly placed next to each other on a table, the astonishing similarity of their forms and shapes was immediately evident. The combination won wide acclaim for the photographer and evolved into an entire series of diptychs, including the Callanish/Scotland Series, which took top prizes in numerous photography competitions.

McColloch’s career in oil and gas exploration began with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology and chemistry from West Virginia University. In his travels throughout the U.S. and in Europe, his camera was always at his side. Influenced by the beauty and artistry of black-and-white photography exemplified by the masters of that art, particularly Ansel Adams and French photographer Eugene Atget, and even without any formal training, McCollochdeveloped his own style of layered and textured works.

In 1996 McColloch donated a portion of his collection to the Upper Valley Collection, part of the Archives and Special Collections of the T.W. Phillips Memorial Library at Bethany College. Currently he and his wife, Carolyn, who doubles as his assistant on his photography shoots, live in Texas. The Marshall exhibit is being made possible through the cooperation of South Charleston businessman Jerry Gorby, the owner of Gorby’s Music and McColloch’s first cousin, with whom he shares an appreciation of fine art. It is being coordinated on the South Charleston campus by Marshall University librarian Lynne Edington.

The McColloch exhibit may be viewed during library hours. For more information, contact Edington at (304) 746-8902 or edington@marshall.edu.