Exploring the World: One Photographer’s Passion

“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” – Walt Disney

By Becky Hurley

Ask Colorado Springs’ native, businessman and octogenarian Chuck Murphy about his love of photography and get ready for the stories … Chuck and his wife, Mary Lou have traveled the world – from Ireland’s picturesque Cliffs of Moher or tribal gatherings in Nairobi and East Africa to a Buddhist temple in India or a rural church in Iceland.

“I got my first Brownie camera in 1950,” he says. “Since then it’s been so rewarding to be able to capture nature up close. But it’s also frustrating. It can take 100 photos to get one good one!”

And the rigors of back country photo shoots can be a little overwhelming. “On our first trip to Iceland we stayed on Westman Island. It was in an archipelago, south of Reykjavik – very remote,” Mary Lou says. “When I realized the distance and 6 a.m. departure required to reach the puffins, I decided to stay at the hotel.”

On his third trip to Iceland’s remote northwestern shores last fall, for example, Chuck hoped to capture a rarity – puffins diving for eels. He’d previously photographed a pair of mating puffins.

“If they feel a little romance after touching beaks, they’ll mate for life,” he says. Turns out the small coral-red beaked divers eluded him, but he came away with great shots of another native species.

“You see Arctic terns have razor-sharp bills. They migrate to Antarctica from the Arctic and can fly 45,000 miles a year,” he explains.

Chuck credits his parents for instilling an appreciation for visual beauty early on – from architecture and historic preservation to photography and fine art. And as the owner of a local construction company, he’s put that passion to work, restoring Victorian homes near downtown, renovating the Manitou Springs Spa building and recycling historic building materials for use in modern office buildings.But photography, he says, tops his list.

That’s why the Murphys have chosen to see the world from many perspectives. Mary Lou recalls a hot air balloon ride in South Africa. Chuck was able to photograph the animals running below.

“It was an amazing experience,” she says, “and we got to meet Bishop Tutu in Cape Town.”

For years the couple’s Christmas cards have featured one of Chuck’s favorite photos from a land far away. Many of the images end up framed on recipients’ bookshelves and walls. “We send about 2,500 to 3,000 cards every year to personal and business friends,” he says. Getting the cards out is a family affair. Murphy’s daughter Maureen contributes a poem to accompany each photo and Chuck adds an Irish blessing. The postage – a specially chosen stamp — and the time required to address cards is considerable, but so far they’ve been able to keep up.

“Sometimes we run into people who didn’t receive it, and they’ll ask us, ‘Did I do something that upset you? I didn’t get my card,’” Mary Lou adds.

The public will soon have an opportunity to view some of Murphy’s work thanks to daughter and owner of the Art, Etc. gallery, Kathleen Murphy. “We’ll have 43 of his favorite framed works on display by mid-June,” she says. Her dad, who recently underwent knee surgery, is already back on his feet and plans to give an art talk one evening.  Rumor has it he has plenty of colorful stories!

Asked what he enjoys most, Chuck explains that capturing animals and their unspoiled habitats usually requires distant travel. Smiling he adds, “That means I won’t be around to deal with problems at the office.”

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