Picturing Galapagos Isles in Queens

by Warren Woodberry Jr. on February 27, 2005 for New York Daily News

New York Daily News 2-27-05

Nature photographer Holly Gordon may be a retired school teacher, but she continues to educate children on the wonders of the world through her Galapagos Islands photo exhibit at the New York Hall of Science.

A startlingly bright orange Sally Lightfoot crab on black shore rocks and the giant head of an ages-old tortoise are among the 53 images that catch the eyes of children who view Gordon’s works.

Her visual presentation celebrates images of life on the Galapagos Islands of Española, located on the equator 600 miles west of Ecuador.

Over the winter and spring breaks, local children can view vivid images of blue-footed boobies, the volcanic landscape on Bartholomew Island and green sea turtles, while learning about the animals and the environments they live in.

“This is my second career, but it’s my first love,” Gordon said of her photography.

Gordon, 62, of Bay Shore, picked up a camera and started shooting seriously in 1995 when she retired after 20 years of teaching middle and high school students.

“It’s like, ‘Oh my God. This is what came out of my camera?’ It’s almost like it came out of my stomach,” said the photographer.

She has since ventured to many distant lands to photograph wildlife, including Easter Island, the Falkland Islands, New Zealand and Antarctica.

Gordon used 35-mm. film to shoot the photographs in her Galapagos exhibit during two trips to eight of the group’s 20 islands between 1999 and 2001.

“The terrain is so alien, it’s like nothing we’re familiar with,” said Gordon, whose pictures are accompanied by fact-filled descriptions.

The museum invited her to showcase her photos through March 27. It is Gordon’s second exhibit at the hall.

“They’re nice. I like this one,” third-grader Sara Anderson, 8, of Bayside said recently as she pointed at a picture of a Galapagos tortoise. “I’ve seen a turtle in a magazine before, but this one’s huge.”

Dr. Alan Friedman, director of the hall, said that since the recent opening of renovated and expanded sections of the museum, visits have doubled. Gordon’s exhibit has been well-received, he added.

“We think these photographs are breathtaking,” said Friedman. “What we like best is when a kid looks at something and says, ‘Look at this,’ trying to discover something interesting. The kids start to point and ask questions. The images begin to invoke in children, ‘How does this relate to me?'”

Ethel Swanchak and her daughter, Joan, visited the Galapagos Islands five years ago – and were able to revisit the exotic landscape through Gordon’s photographs.

“We saw this advertised and that is why we came, so now we’ll walk through the whole museum,” said Swanchak, of Bayside. “She did a magnificent job, and it’s a perfect place for pictures.”

Gordon said she wishes she could share her photos with nature enthusiasts beyond the museum’s walls.

“I would love to find a sponsor or an exhibition marketing organization to manage me,” said Gordon.

“I would like for it to travel through the world, so other people can experience other parts of the planet.”