West Babylon retiree photographs extremes

by Andrew Watson on March 16, 2006 for New York Teacher

New York Teacher-3-16-06

Holly Gordon, a retired art teacher from the West Babylon Teachers Association likes to photograph places lightly touched by humans.

When Holly Gordon was at an age where most kids were expressing themselves through crayon and paper, her father slung a camera around her 4-year-old neck, tightened the strap and told her to go shoot something. Now, the retired art teacher from West Babylon High on Long Island has made a second career of traveling to the four corners of the earth photographing rare and exotic plants and animals that few of us have ever seen.

Since retiring in 1999, Gordon has made the world her classroom, capturing the exotic diversity of the Galapagos Islands, the harsh beauty of the Antarctic and the mystery of Easter Island.

“I have always had the desire to travel,” Gordon said. “I want to go where people don’t go, where the land is unblemished.”

Gordon’s search for the “unblemished” sometimes brings her into harm’s way. On a trip to the Antarctic in 2000, she became so absorbed in shooting that she found herself alone and temporarily lost when the rest of the group had moved on. While photographing migrating gray whales in Baja California , an overly protective mother whale lifted an end of Gordon’s boat with her tail and slapped it down again. “She just wanted us to know she was there,” Gordon said.

Capturing the perfect shot takes a lot of hard work, Gordon said.

“Getting up early, hiking to a location, waiting until the lighting is right — it’s not uncommon for me to shoot eight to 10 hours a day.”

Gordon’s efforts have caught the interest of museums in New York. Her exhibit “Antarctica: Journey to the Extreme” runs through March 26 at the New York Hall of Science and then travels to the Long Island Science Center in June. “If anyone ever told me I’d be doing what I’m doing now I wouldn’t have believed them … It’s a bloody fairy tale,” Gordon said.