DSC04856CCJust south of downtown Colorado Springs, in a small, airy art gallery on East Rio Grande Street, lies a photographic archive of the passions and curiosities of a renowned local businessman.

Chuck Murphy’s mother gave him his first camera when he was 14 years old and kickstarted a “Lifetime of Photography,” which is the title of the art show featuring his work that opens Friday at his daughter Kathleen’s new gallery, Art Etc. Gallery & Boutique, 18 E. Rio Grande.

Like her father’s photography, opening an art space has long been a labor of love for Kathleen Murphy. Growing up in an proud Irish-Catholic family of storytellers, photographers and art-lovers inspired her to become an artist herself. Like her father, who has owned and operated Murphy Constructors in Colorado Springs for 54 years, photography and traveling have been a lifelong passion.

“This is always something that I dreamt about,” she said of the gallery. “I always told my father that someday I’d like to have a space where I could show my work and his work and other local, emerging, Colorado artists. … There are so many talented people here.”

Photo exhibit

The walls of her gallery are currently covered with her father’s photos: Colorado flowers, exotic African wildlife, residents of India, Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Andes, as well as scenes of his beloved Ireland.

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“Photography is something that I’ve loved my entire life,” Chuck Murphy said. “It taught me to see and appreciate … people and nature and the world.”

On the eastern wall hangs a grouping of black-and-white boats printed on silver gelatin — an homage to his family’s history as boatbuilders on Achill Island — across the room from a nighttime shot of an illuminated Eiffel Tower.

“Each one of them has a little story behind it,” he said. “Rarely do you forget a picture that you took. If you stop, and you focus … you’ll remember why.”

Chuck Murphy, 79, said some of the images in the gallery date to the 1970s, while others have been produced since he switched from film to digital about a decade ago.

“Digital is great — it’s such a marvelous invention that has revolutionized photography,” he said. “I really enjoy it.”

But, of the many fascinating scenes he has documented, he said nature is his favorite subject.

“Nature is wonderful because it never changes,” he said. “We have fashion that dictates what we look like — but not nature. That is what I find exciting.”

Even when he’s not taking National Geographic expeditions to Antarctica or snapping shots of Icelandic puffins, Chuck Murphy is satisfied rolling down to New Mexico or even staying home and snapping yellow daisies near Pikes Peak or aspens changing color in Teller County.

“My passion is photography and travel,” he said. “I like to take back roads — a different route every time, if I can.”

When asked what message he hopes to convey to gallery-goers, Chuck Murphy said he hopes they invoke a “greater appreciation of nature.”

“Hopefully, when people see them, it makes them think and feel,” he said. “For me, it’s all about capturing a scene and being able to share it with others.”

Over the years, that fact has been most evident to the nearly 3,000 recipients of his annual Christmas card, including a copy of one of his photos.

Murphy has had a few other shows over the years at local galleries, and his shots have been on the covers of a few magazines, but by-and-large it has remained a passion — not a paycheck.

And it’s a passion he’s bestowed upon his family.

Inspiring his daughter

It was his gift to Kathleen Murphy of a Kodak Pocket Instamatic, coupled with her enrollment in the Bemis School of Art, that inspired her fine art minor in college and her lifelong love of fine art photography.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” she said of opening the gallery. “And it has been really exciting to talk to other artists and see them interested in my space, because it is something different and new for the area.”

Kathleen Murphy has tried to make the gallery her own — a comfortable, practical space for enjoying art — by bringing in furniture from her home and creating an inviting and accommodating environment.

She said she arranged her father’s photographs by subject matter and that there is a “natural progression throughout the gallery.”

A Lifetime of Photography opens at 6 p.m. Friday as part of the First Friday Downtown Colorado Springs Art Walk and will close just before July 4, Kathleen Murphy said. Framed photographs from Chuck Murphy’s collection are will be available to purchase throughout the exhibit.

She said she is already talking to other local artists interested in displaying their works in the space; and maybe, eventually, she’ll include a bit of her own work as well.

“I’m a bit shy,” she said, “but I’m hoping that this space will always be evolving and that it will never look the same.”

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