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Through the Lens: Kathy Triolo

Jim Bair
Special to The Union

It’s no wonder Kathy Triolo is elected president of the Nevada County Camera Club. After years of adventure and pursuit of career and family, Kathy returned to the passion she had as a 7-year-old kid with a Brownie camera, and reignited it into a stunning photography presence. Her reentry is highlighted by the multi-award winning “Starry Night at the Fair.” Competing with thousands of photographers statewide, she won the coveted Best of Show in Photography at the California State Fair (2018) and received the Golden Bear award (a bronze casting of the California state bear symbol). After that, she won first place and Best of Division at the Nevada County District Fair. This photo represents her mastery of digital photo processing with the compositing of three photos into one — can you recognize them? Before I reveal her technique, consider her beginnings, which became a basis for photographic achievement.


While a teen, Kathy kept photographically active and built a dark room for processing color slides, the then affordable medium. Although growing up in San Francisco provided unlimited subject matter, especially for the “street photography” genre, going off to college expanded her view. Humboldt State University offered a photography major and enabled a year of travel abroad; Europe and Israel were her photographic school ground. But the Eureka area also offered photo opportunities. The early photo “Fishing in Eureka” (1973) is delightful and shows her sense of humor with two fishermen appearing to abandon ship at day’s end.

However, a photography major didn’t look like a viable career path, so Kathy got a degree in psychology. Well, psychology didn’t look very promising either without an advanced degree, so she went on to get a master’s in rehabilitation counseling at San Francisco State University. You might wonder what this has to do with photography, but studying human behavior does influence one’s photographic sensitivity. Kathy took her counseling work very seriously. For example, she took a challenging position doing psychiatric triage in locked wards in Redwood City, and San Jose. Experiencing the depths of human behavior can deepen one’s sensitivity to photographic subjects. Consider this photo of “Rodney,” juried into the California State Fine Arts Exhibition at the State Fair. This portrait has enduring appeal arising from portraying life’s struggle in the spirit of the great master painters, like Rembrandt.


Kathy and her camera (and her husband) have traveled to the far reaches of the world which often inspires her to combine photos from totally different locations (photographers call it “compositing,” using software such as Photoshop). Recently, she developed a noir theme to the delight of many subjects who ended up in exotic settings. This example, “A Night in Barcelona,” has a sinister couple (taken in Kathy’s studio) on the streets of Barcelona, Spain. Staging photos like this is not only intriguing but entertaining.

With Kathy’s penchant for travel we are fortunate to have her home in Nevada City for this interview. But the real reason for her availability is not so fortunate: COVID-19, which has halted most travel. Earlier this year, when the pandemic wreaked travel havoc, she and her husband almost didn’t make it back home. She laments, “We travelled a long way to Sydney, Australia, for a Royal Caribbean cruise to New Zealand only to find out that the borders had closed right before we sailed.” They had to quickly fly back, leaving Australia just in time.

Many of Kathy’s trips are in our region such as the eastern Sierra. Here’s a photo that magnificently illustrates another popular genre, night photography. The photo “Convict Lake Night Beauty” required positioning at the perfect place and time with tripod set up for a long exposure (which can’t be too long or the stars will look like streaks). This photo took the photographic community by storm and was juried into the California State Fair 2017 Fine Arts Competition, which accepts very few photos. It also won Photo of the Year for Nevada County Camera Club (2018), and was celebrated at the Club’s annual dinner.


Artistry is subjective and can be difficult to define, but we know it when we see it. “De Chambeau Hotel, Bodie” is an illustration of Kathy’s photographic artistry, and captures part of the Bodie ghost town (Bodie, California, State Historic Park near the Nevada border) in a spectacular sunset. In contrast to other art forms, photography depends upon shooting at the exact right moment to capture natural light. In this case, the composition also contributes to a terrific photo. Notice the “leading lines” from the lower left into the colorful sunset above a blue sky. This photo was featured in the 2018 Bodie Foundation Calendar and was made into a postcard for sale in the Bodie Foundation Gift Shop. It also won Best Color Photograph at the Nevada County District Fair in 2018.

Kathy has taken the art of photography to inspiring levels through her use of compositing. For “Starry Night at the Fair” (see our first photo), she combined a night sky photo of the Milky Way and a sunset shot of the California State Fair ride and then applied a color “filter” (selectively enhances colors) in Photoshop. In the photo “Wild Iris,” the “wild” describes the iris leaping out of a picture frame. This whimsical addition along with the other photographic elements renders the photo a work of art in our opinion.


Kathy’s presence in the photographic community includes shows, competitions and awards too numerous to mention here. But her work goes far beyond personal photography to leading and inspiring the Camera Club. She enables numerous shows, competitions and activities for members. We are delighted at opportunities she creates working with her club board, such as shows at Nevada City Picture Framing and Gallery (571 Searles Ave., Nevada City) running through July 24, and a show at the office of Edward Jones Investments (580 Brunswick Road, Grass Valley) running now through July.

Sometimes the spotlight is all hers as with “Underworld,” which received the 2019 Award of Merit at the California State Fair Photography Competition. This photo then was then accepted for the KVIE Auction, a regional TV show airing in October. As noted in previous articles, printing photos is a surprisingly challenging process. “Underworld” not only creates a mysterious mood but the sharpness, tonal range and subtle lighting make it a winning print.

This just in: another example of Kathy’s awesome artistry, “Butterfly Ballet,” has been selected to show at Blue Line Arts, a prominent gallery in Roseville (405 Vernon St.) June 12 – July 25. Kathy has created a dreamlike fantasy with many elements including flora, fauna, and young girls with color coordinated egrets.

I invite you to peruse Kathy’s compelling creations on her website: http://www.ktriolo.wixsite.com/triolography, Facebook, and Instagram.

Jim Bair, a former VP of the Nevada County Camera Club, has many of his award winning photos on http://www.JimBairPhotography.com and in this newspaper at http://www.theunion.com/news/through-the-lens-a-qa-with-photographer-featured-artist-jim-bair.

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