When Stacy Pearsall travels, she tries to let the country speak to her. She doesn’t go out looking for a particular scene to shoot because she wants the authenticity of the people and the place to come alive in her photographs. “I try to let the moment inspire me,” she says.
From hula dancing in Hawaii to riding camels in Morocco, Pearsall is out there having the kinds of adventures many of us only dream about. Her service as a photographer in the Air Force provided her with a unique vision of varied people and cultures around the globe. Even though she’s now a hardworking business owner with a permanent address in the Lowcountry, Pearsall always retains a sense of wanderlust, and we are the lucky beneficiaries.
Pearsall is a retired award-winning military photographer and the owner/director of the Charleston Center for Photography, which offers classes, workshops, lectures, studio rentals, and printing services for members. Pearsall teaches photography at the CCforP as well as at Photo Quest Adventure. She’s also a bit of a local celebrity who spoke about women in the war on Oprah in 2009.
On a recent nine-day trip to Morocco with students from PQA, whom she calls “questers,” Pearsall spent the night in a tent in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Waking up to the sunrise, she captured an image of the turbaned guides gazing at the shimmering horizon. “I’m a big people person,” she says of her work. “There is a human element in many of my photographs.” Pearsall says she treats her subjects with caution and respect and decides if they are open to being photographed based on body language. “Through all of my travels, I’ve learned to communicate non-verbally.”
Pearsall says that Morocco’s tourism industry has taken a blow in the last several years . “After 9/11, a lot of Westerners avoided traveling to Muslim countries,” she says. “Morocco has so much to offer, from the beach to the city to the mountains. It is a varied place.” The eclecticism of the country is evident in her photographs, which capture a wide range of images, from a shopkeeper in a casbah to the shadows of a group of camels to young boys playing in a waterfall.
Pearsall says Morocco is unlike anywhere she’d been before. “Visiting Morocco for the first time was like stepping back in time, and not just a hundred years, but thousands of years.” Visiting a tannery with the questers, she took photographs of men whose families had been working there for generations. Photos of the tannery dye vats and portraits of the workers reveal this age-old Moroccan tradition.
The solo exhibit at the CCforP will include 16 works from the trip, a slide presentation of additional photographs, and a teaching lecture where she will talk about photographic challenges, like keeping equipment dust-free in the desert. Mark Suban, from Nikon Professional Services in Washington, D.C., will speak about technical issues and field questions about camera gear and “techie stuff.”