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Photographer Lillis Werder: The Traveler’s Gift [elan magazine]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
elan magazine
March 2006
Photo here by Lillis Werder: “Gargoyle,” Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

The gargoyle seemed to know what Lillis Werder was thinking. Perched upon the towers of Notre Dame, it was overlooking all the happenings of Paris—just what the Virginia photographer was planning to do from behind the lens of her Canon EOS 10D digital camera.

After climbing to the roof of the Cathedral, Lillis not only captured the beauty of Paris from a unique vantage point—she clicked sublime shots of the gargoyle itself. The image of that crouched creature eventually became the logo for her creative enterprise, Lillis Photography.

“As a photographer, I love being able to see the big picture like the Seine River viewed from the Eiffel Tower, then focus in on the minute things that some people never notice,” says Lillis, whose portfolio contains images of the canals of Venice, the facade of the Basilica di San Marco, and the Amalfi Coast. “My goal is to make the ordinary into something extraordinary.”

It was summers spent in Europe that instilled in Lillis a passion for travel and photography. When she was 10, her grandmother decided she’d rent a cottage outside of London. Camera in hand, Lillis began capturing images of all the exciting places she visited: England, Ireland, France and Germany.

By the time Lillis went to college at Georgetown University, her love for travel inspired her to become a foreign service major. Her fluency in Spanish took her to Ecuador for a summer. Wherever she went, a camera was always dangling from her neck.

For a career, though, Lillis opted to work in the high-tech industry. She’s held down day jobs at several Fortune 500 companies, including IBM and Lockheed Martin. Currently, she works part-time at Fibertek, a fiber-optics firm in Herndon.

But deep down inside, Lillis always dreamed of becoming a professional photographer. In 2000, she was talking about her travel photography with a friend, dentist Charles Nelson. She mentioned she’d taken photographs of some of Europe’s most exciting and beautiful hotspots, and he asked a for private showing. Impressed with what he saw, Nelson purchased pictures of the gondolas floating down the canals of Venice-and that sale got Lillis thinking: Maybe she could
sell some of her prints to other collectors.

She approached a handful of restaurants in the area and quickly sold several shots of Vienna to Donatello Ristorante in Washington, D.C. She sold several more to Carmello’s & Little Portugal restaurant in the old section of Manassas. Ecco Cafe, an Italian bistro in Old Town Alexandria, purchased 26 of her scenes of Italy to decorate the walls.

With that coup under her belt, Lillis began turning out greeting card versions of her photographs. One day she ventured to Gunston Hall Plantation with her sister and nine-year-old son Sam. There the farm’s resident celebrity, a Devon bull named Sir Harry, posed for pictures.

Later, Lillis chose a picture of Harry that she thought would be perfect for a set of greeting cards in the historic site’s gift shop. The manager agreed, and not only did she have Lillis create a line of cards, she adhered her image of Sir Harry’s to paddle fans for summertime visitors to take home as souvenirs.

“What was once a hobby has become a disease,” Lillis says. “I want to capture everything I see and share it. My thinking is that even if people can’t travel to the Amalfi Coast [or] Paris, I want them to look at my photos and feel like they’ve been there.”

For more visit: www. Lillisphotography.com.


More Elan magazine / Artist profiles Articles

"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.