The title of the recently published “Images Provided to the Federal Reserve Board, 2007-2016” is unassuming. The images created by Gaithersburg photographer Bob Drzyzgula are anything but. Landscapes capture drama both near and far—in the photographer’s hometown, around Montgomery County and in Washington, D.C., as well as in the Pacific Northwest, the Florida Keys, Hawaii, Niagara Falls and other locales. Close-ups of objects and flora verge on the abstract, uncovering beauty in places the human eye sometimes doesn’t see.
“There was no intent behind this,” said Drzyzgula of the images he creates. “I just saw something and tried to capture what it felt like to be there. … It’s an ephemeral thing. So many things are just in the moment.”
In all, the book features 85 images in the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) collection. These images can be found framed in board offices and corridors, some as large as five feet. Twelve are on display in the cafeteria at the board’s New York Avenue and 17th Street, N.W. location, across the street from the Old Executive Office Building.
This, too, was not intentional.
Drzyzgula has been taking photos practically his whole life, starting as a teen in a small farming community near Lake George in the New York Adirondacks and continuing through his college years at State University of New York-Oswego, where he double-majored in math and physics, and later, at the University of Virginia, where he studied algebraic topology. During the ’70s and ’80s, he printed his own black-and-white photos in a darkroom or had them processed at a photo store.
Photography, he said, was part of what got him a job as a contractor at NASA Goddard working for a solar astrophysicist. “They needed somebody who could both do Fortran programming and run a darkroom because they had all these observatory photographs of comets that had to be printed. … They were just starting to digital process at a very low level, but the bulk of the work was printing out images and measuring, drawing lines on it and measuring angles against known star fields and so forth.”
His career led him to the FRB in February 1983, where he worked until his retirement in February 2016. “I worked in what was called the automation research computing section … within the division of research and statistics. I was sort of a planner and network architect for computing systems that economists use at the board for their modeling, simulation, day-to-day work, and that’s what I did for almost all my time there.”
Until 2005, Drzyzgula said he didn’t do much photography other than shooting snapshots with an SLR. “It really wasn’t until digital photography started to mature that I picked it up again,” he said.
Whenever he felt inspired, Drzyzgula would take photographs—oftentimes hundreds—to find a few that he liked. “I walk around and I experience the real world and I see things that I enjoy and I just try to capture them and put them together as something that someone else can enjoy,” he said.
Back home, he would pore over them, looking for “the image within the picture I’ve taken and then cropping out and rotating it, if necessary.” Over the years, his concept of the image grew from trying “to be as true to the actual thing as possible” to letting “the image be its own thing and if something looks more interesting as an image, if it’s changed a little bit from what it was like in real life, that’s still OK.”
In 2007, Stephen Phillips came to the FRB as art director. Phillips was a former curator at the Phillips Collection, and in 2008, he launched the board’s first annual Staff Art Show.
Drzyzgula said that Phillips “talked me into submitting a picture, and then they just kept asking me for more. By the time I retired, there were 85 pictures that they had in their collection. So, like I said, there was never any intent in any of this. I would go out one day and take a bunch of pictures and find a few I liked and put them on my Smugmug account, and I’d send an email to the art director and his assistant saying, ‘Are there any here that you like?’ Then they’d email me back and say, ‘Can you make prints of these four or five?’”
By law, the FRB is not allowed to purchase art, but it can accept donations and care for the art, including framing. “The Board Staff Art Show, it was a very good idea,” Drzyzgula said, explaining that the show gave people throughout the organization a chance to share their artistic abilities with their colleagues and have their work on display while also making “the work environment nicer to have all this art all around.”
Beautifully designed by Drzyzgula with some graphics consulting from Will Sykora of Web Mobile Image, LLC and editing support from his wife, Cathy, and neighbor, Susie Searles, “Images Provided to the Federal Reserve Board, 2007-2016” was created as a catalogue for the FRB and includes information on “what I thought of or was thinking of when I took the pictures, how they were created and some technical background as to how they were captured and processed,” Drzyzgula said. “That was my entire motivation to put this book together.”
The end product is much more than a catalog, though. Behind its unassuming name are intriguing moments in time full of color, contrast and texture.
“Nature, landscape and interesting details of objects,” Drzyzgula said, “those are the things that I tend to gravitate most towards. I mean honestly, I go out with a camera, I just take hundreds of pictures, and every once in a while one of them will come out OK. It’s very hard for me to be at all deliberate about any of it.”
And maybe that’s the beauty of it all.
To see more of Drzyzgula’s photographs, visit http://www.blurb.com/b/7197971-images-provided-to-the-federal-reserve-board.