Rita Baunok grew up in Hungary and moved to the U.S when she was 32. More than 20 years and a few photography degrees later, she opened the Chroma Fine Art Gallery on Katonah Avenue. For over 15 years, Rita has been a member of the Ground Glass Association, which is a guild of photographers in Westchester and Fairfield County.
On May 21, at the Katonah Art Walk, the association’s latest exhibit had its debut on Katonah Avenue’s Railroad Crossing fence. The exhibit, titled “The Written Word”, is part of their Road Show, a series of exhibits they have taken, well, on the road. The association has displayed their work outside on fences in Mahopac, Ossining and Rye. “The Written Word” can be seen in Katonah until June 22.
While setting up her newest exhibit called “Hypotheticals,” which runs from May 17 to June 19, Rita talked to us about her career and the Road Show.
Katonah Connect: How did you become interested in photography?
Rita Baunok: I moved to the U.S. from Hungary when I was 32, and I didn’t speak any English so my camera became the tool of my expression because I always have something to say.
KC: Can you tell me about your work as a photographer?
RB: Sometimes I’ll work on a project for two, three, four years. I like to experiment– with materials, papers, different kinds of printing techniques in the darkroom, digitally– then I finally find what I like and I go with that.
KC:Do you prefer film or digital?
RB: Film. I like the process. I like chemicals. I like the smell of chemicals. I love working in the darkroom.
KC: Do you have a favorite photo?
RB: It changes every day. It changes with my mood, it changes with the weather, it changes with the environment. So when somebody asks me about my projects or my work, I like to say “this is my favorite image today.”
KC: What’s the worst photo you’ve ever taken?
RB: I cannot name one because it’s so many.
KC: Really? You have that many photos that you don’t like?
RB: The difference between the amateur photographer and the professional photographer is that the amateur photographer usually keeps every shot they take, and the professional photographer usually deletes 90 percent of their shots.
KC: What brought Ground Glass out onto the road?
RB: The Ground Glass Association usually exhibits together three times a year. Then COVID started and everybody was in lockdown at home, the only place people could meet was outside. So I came up with the idea, “Let’s do some outdoor photography shows.”
KC: What is the idea behind “The Written Word” exhibit?
RB: The idea came from the Ossining Library. They asked us to come back a second year for the Road Show, so we started thinking of what theme would go with the library, and that’s how we came up with “The Written Word”.
KC: You were brave enough to display a self-portrait, but the word associated with it is “second.” Was there a first? If so, did it become part of the 90 percent club?
RB: I have two photos in the exhibit, and one is a self-portrait. The word “second” and the definition are there because because everything here is second: this is my second marriage, second language, my second life in the U.S., everything is a second. So that’s why I put the dictionary page and my self portrait together.
KC: What are you feeling connected to right now?
RB: I’m feeling connected to this town. I’m so happy to be here. Every day when we have visitors, they come in with a smile on their face and they’re thanking us that we opened the gallery. They are so happy that we are here and that makes me happy.