by Dennis Dalman
One of Shirley Strom’s favorite photographs is one of herself, taken when she was 4 years old, holding her mother’s Kodak Brownie Box camera and clutching that camera as if, for all the world, it was her own.
Even then, pre-school, Strom loved cameras and taking photographs. It’s no wonder after decades of shutterbugging, she has achieved the spotlight-honor of so many exhibits of her works.
Currently, two of Strom’s award-winning photos are on display at the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute’s 49th annual International Art Show. They are on display until May 11 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. And not to worry because those who can’t see that show can enjoy viewing 20 of Strom’s photographs at a one-woman show at CentraCare Health Plaza, which includes two award-winning photos shown in the Sister Kenny exhibition. The CentraCare exhibit will run through June 20.
Strom’s Sister Kenny winners are entitled “Breathtaking” and “Speak, Hear No Evil.” The first is of two dazzlingly colored hummingbirds feeding at a red salvia plant. The second is a tryptich — a three-photo (framed together) work showing a squirrel agonizing over whether or not to take a big leap from its perch all the way to a bird feeder. In the photos, the squirrel seems to be holding its paws, alternately, over its ears, mouth and eyes — like the mythical monkeys who see, speak and hear no evil.
That squirrel, by the way, did not take the big leap.
“No, it decided not to,” Strom said.
Both of her award-winning photos were taken in her backyard, which is a veritable animal habitat, carefully planned that way for two reasons: Strom loves flora and fauna, and she loves to photograph them. Her wooded yard, located at Sartell’s Bluebird Court, is filled with trees, birdhouses, birdbaths, feeders, bushes and all kinds of plants and flowers to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and virtually every type of critters large and small. Strom’s backyard is her photographic hunting ground.
“My dad was a hunter,” she said. “I think he passed the love of hunting down to me — except I hunt with a camera, not a gun.”
Strom’s backyard has been officially honored as a “Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat.”
Born in Menomonie, Wis., Strom and her family have lived in Sartell since 1994. Before she retired, she worked as an occupational therapist at the St. Cloud VA Medical Center for 20 years. She retired in 2000. It was then her love for photography kicked in more than ever. Every year, she would make a photo calendar for friends and relatives.
“I made about 30 to 35 of them each year, each November, as Christmas gifts,” she said.
The compliments on her magnificent nature photos multiplied. One day her best friend was wowed by a calendar photo of a bluebird for the month of April.
“Why don’t you get that enlarged?” the friend suggested. “It is just gorgeous.”
And so Strom did just that. She gave the enlargement to the friend, who was thrilled to get it.
It was then Strom got to thinking, “Gee, maybe I should do this as a job.”
One day, on vacation, Strom’s son told her she was “meant” to take and sell her photos.
Shortly after, Strom decided to start her own photographic business, dubbed SASe Creations, which stands for Shirley Ann Strom electronic Creations.”
“I love everything about photography,” Strom said. “My reward is getting the image I was after, but even better is getting an image I could not have expected — one I didn’t know I was getting until after I took the photo. That’s what I call my hunt and my reward.”
Strom’s loved ones know all too well how she thinks, breathes and lives for the “perfect photo.”
She explained how she happened to get the award-winning photo of the two hummingbirds.
“My husband (Patrick) was on the upper floor of our house looking out on the deck,” she said. “I was on the lower floor when I heard him say, ‘Oh, my God! Oh, my God.’ Well, I knew he was stunned by something, but I knew it wasn’t a heart attack, so I thought I’d better grab my camera. I hurried up there and took a bunch of photos. It was the hummingbirds feeding off the salvia flowers on the deck.”
Strom has been featured in photo exhibitions for many years, including at least 10 times in the Sister Kenny one and the CentraCare Plaza one, as well as many times at the libraries in St. Cloud and Waite Park and frequent exhibits at the Whitney Senior Center in St. Cloud.