Former Brier resident wins awards for nature photography in Arizona

Greg Wickenburg with his service dog Roo. (All photos courtesy Greg Wickenburg)

After just six months of taking photos and no formal training, a former Brier resident, recently won two blue ribbons in the Chandler, Arizona Nature Photo Contest. One of those photos, called “Conducktor,” won the People’s Choice award.

But six months ago wasn’t the first time Greg Wickenburg picked up a camera. He first tried photography in the 1990s. He quickly stopped because he couldn’t operate the camera by himself and he became frustrated.

Wickenburg became paralyzed from the shoulders down in 1982 after a car accident. With the help of new camera technology, however, he can take beautiful photos.

For example, he uses a computer stylus strapped to his hand to operate the touch screen on the back of his camera. Other pieces of technology also assist him.

“I put the shutter cable in my mouth and bite on it to take the pictures,” he said.

Though his nature photos recently won a photo contest, nature photography is not Wickenburg’s main photography focus.

“Wildlife is something I like to do if I can, but it’s harder to do because I can’t get close to things in my wheelchair,” he said.

He does enjoy taking wildlife photos on occasion. He was spending a day at a lake near his house when he snapped “Conducktor.” On another occasion, he was walking his service dog Roo when he spotted a roadrunner on a wall. He took a photo of the bird, which also won a first place award in the contest. A third photo, also of a duck, won a third place award.

Wickenburg’s main photography style is double exposures, or layering photos on top of one another, to create his photography art. All of his double-exposures are done directly in the camera, not in an editing program.

“Not too many people do that kind of stuff,” Wickenburg said.

One such photo shows Roo, a Papillion, combined with a butterfly, which is papillon in French. Another shows a cat peering out through a hole in a cactus.

Wickenburg was born in Seattle and moved to Brier in 1990. He moved to Arizona in 2004 to get warm.

“One of the symptoms of being paralyzed is that my ‘thermostat’ doesn’t work,” he said. “My body temperature averages 96 degrees.”

The contest is not the only place his photography is being recognized. His work is on display at an art gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. His pieces are also available for sale on various household items at this link.

Money earned from the sale of Wickenburg’s photography will go toward getting him a new van. He also has a GoFundMe page to help raise money for a van.

Though Wickenburg enjoys the Arizona heat, he said he does miss the northwest.

“Our neighbors (in Brier) had cows,” he said. “Across the street were horses. That was really nice.”

–By Natalie Covate

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