- Associated Press - Monday, August 25, 2014

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - A skilled photographer can capture stunning, moving images while maintaining a sense of artistic distance behind the camera.

Photography is more about attachment than detachment for Milly West. The Oxford resident connects with people and places, and she gets excited by the results.

“It’s so much fun to come home and pop my memory card in the computer and see how they look on a big screen,” West, 65, said. “Sometimes, that feeling goes away. Sometimes, it turns your stomach with joy, then a little later, there’s a problem over here, and what’s that over there? It’s not quite right.”

Her photos are in collections at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans; and the Brooks Gallery in Memphis, among others.

West received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Photography twice, and she was recently selected as one of 15 artists to be included in Mississippi Museum of Art’s 2014 Mississippi Invitational exhibition.

For the Invitational, which will run Nov. 1 to Jan. 25, the judge saw West’s submissions then visited her studio, a converted garage in Oxford.

“She chose five photographs for the exhibit,” West said. “I’m so excited.”

West isn’t exactly sure where her passion for photography originated, but she has a working theory.

One clue comes from a snapshot of her mother, who’s holding a fishing pole in one hand and an old Brownie box camera in the other.

“I remember her teaching me how to put the film in and how to take pictures,” West said.

She did some photography in journalism classes at the University of Mississippi, but her work remained in the snapshot realm for years as she raised children.

A casual event that looms large occurred in 1982, when a neighbor wanted to attend Delta State University. West agreed to show her around the campus and the Delta.

“We went through Clarksdale just because I was showing her around, and I said, ‘How do you feel about stopping, taking some pictures and walking around?’” West said. “She was fine with it.”

West was captivated by the flowers in the yards, the kids playing ball and the women in their colorful clothes.

“A few weeks later, I drove back, and I found something truly exciting around every corner,” she said. “It was very poor but incredibly full of life. I couldn’t stop. I was so enthusiastic. I would talk to people. They would relate to me, and I would relate to them. They were very welcoming. When I went back the next time, they were so happy to see me because I brought back pictures.”

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