Every day, Andover fine-art photographer Wilda Gerideau-Squires lives out the saying "do what you love, love what you do."

She has considered herself a professional photographer since 2000, when her hobby as a shutterbug blossomed into a career. After an illness caused her to leave her career of more than 30 years as a midlevel executive in the travel industry, she turned to her avocation, her love -- photography -- to fill the void.

Gerideau-Squires, who travels frequently with her husband, said, "Wherever I go, I always have my camera."

Gerideau-Squires is currently a resident artist at the Western Avenue Studios in Lowell and has won numerous awards for her photographs -- portraits, landscapes and abstract images. One of her photographs, "Reflection From a Convent," was accepted into an exhibit at the Artrom Gallery in Rome this summer.

Recently, Gerideau-Squires has focused on abstract photography, which she calls "designed photography." Her images -- close-ups of fabrics -- are "designed" because she arranges the design and lighting of each shot and then enlarges the images. From the close-up images, another design, sometimes a concrete image of something entirely different and unexpected, will appear.

"When I start, I really don't know what I'm going to get. I just start shooting and I enlarge it, and I stop when I see something. My preference is that my viewers of the work allow their own voice to inform what they're viewing. Sometimes they see things that are completely different than what I see, it's fascinating," said Gerideau-Squires. "People bring their own interests and experience to the viewing of the abstract. That's why I'm so taken with it."

Gerideau-Squires has even changed the title of some of her photographs after she's gotten feedback about what other people see in the work. One of her photographs, titled "Homage to Degas," is so named because it reminded her of one of Impressionist Edgar Degas' paintings of a ballet dancer at the barre. But a woman that saw the photograph on display in a gallery once asked Gerideau-Squires if she was a science-fiction fan, because the viewer saw spaceships in the image, not dancers.

"I'm very open to whatever is there; I don't go into with any preconceived ideas," said Gerideau-Squires of her abstract images. "It's the same when I meet a new person -- I let them tell me who they are. I wait for the fabric (that she photographs) to tell me.

"I am continuously amazed at what you can find in the simplest, most mundane thing. In a piece of fabric, would you expect to find images? It's like a synopsis of life -- there's always something extraordinary out there to see and experience. You just have to look for it. It won't just hit you over the head."

Gerideau-Squires grew up in upstate New York, moved to Boston when she was 19 and has lived in Andover with her husband, Walter Squires, since 1992. She is a graduate of the College of DuPage and has studied at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

This spring, 10 of Gerideau-Squires photographs were selected from 8,000 submitted images as finalists in the 2007 Prix De La Photographie Paris competition; she was awarded an honorable mention from the competition in June. Several of her images have also been selected by Photographers Forum magazine in consideration for their 2007 Best of Photography Annual edition.

Besides her abstract images, Gerideau-Squires is drawn to photographing women around the world, making poignant portraits out of them doing everyday things. She finds women to photograph in her travels -- most recently to China, Japan and Korea with her husband.

That is how she took "Reflection From a Convent," the photograph that will be showcased at the Artrom Gallery in Rome. In 2002, she and her husband were on a pilgrimage with their church choir in Assisi, Italy, and she noticed a nun looking out from a convent through a metal gate.

"I just happened to spot this nun looking out wistfully. I watched her for about five minutes; I kept expecting her to move away from the gate. She was just staring out at the street activity. The expression on her face moved me. You couldn't help but wonder if she's looking out at all that activity and was glad she was inside, or wishing she was outside," said Gerideau-Squires.

Meet the artist

Gerideau-Squires will be participating in an open studios day at the Western Avenue Studios in Lowell, September 29 and 30, noon to 5 p.m. A number of Merrimack Valley artists will open their working studios; visitors can watch artists at work, ask them questions and view their pieces. 122 Western Avenue, Lowell. See www.lowellopenstudios.org for more information.

In addition to the September 29 weekend, the Western Avenue Studios also have open studio time the first Saturday of every month, noon to 5 p.m.

The photography of Gerideau-Squires can also be viewed online at her Web site, www.wgsgallery.org

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