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Exhibit showcases local woman's pictures

For Melanie Walter, her love of photography likely began with a Kodak Instamatic camera.

"My father was real big on taking our family on big vacations, and we went on this trip for a month, we drove for a whole month out west and saw Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon and everything between here and there," she said.

With her camera in hand, "I shot everything I saw," she said.

While photography was a constant and large part of her life growing up, Walter took the business route.

"It was one of these dreams that I put on the back burner because I never thought that I could make a living at it," Walter said. "I took the safe route and had a career with Georgia Pacific for 17 years."

Despite her career choice, Walter didn't quite let go of that dream.

"In the mid-1990s, I moonlighted and went to Southeastern Center for the Arts and studied photography there, but I was still not confident enough to jump away from the business career," she said. "Later in life I got married, and thanks to my husband I don't have to worry about feeding myself."

The Georgia native has been displaying her work in galleries for the past two years. As an arts vendor at the Suwanee Day festival last year, she was approached by a woman who works at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse who suggested she submit her work for a potential display.

"I didn't even really know at the time that they had art exhibits here," Walter said. "So that's what I did, and a few months later I was contacted to do a show."

The Lawrenceville resident has displayed 41 of her original photographs, most archival pigment prints, down the main hallway and two adjacent alcove-type areas on the first floor of courthouse.

"Most of them are kind of favorites that I have that I think should maybe bring back some memories or give people an idea of something to maybe go search out and seek here in the South," she said.

Walter's approach to taking photographs centers around lines, curves and form. Most of the photos on display were shot with a Nikon digital camera, but a few were taken with a film camera, her Pentax SLR.

"I love composing the photograph itself," Walter said. "I wanted to be an architect when I was in high school until I found out that you had to make sure the buildings would actually stand up. I think that's one of the reasons why I love photography is I have the ability to be an architect with my images and create views and designs just with the camera."

The exhibit at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse is Walter's first solo show.

"It's one of these dream come trues," she said. "I'll be turning 45 in October so my message to the world is really don't think it's too late ever to live your dream."

SideBar: If You Go

What: "Southern Recollection," an exhibit of photography by Lawrenceville resident Melanie Walter

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 21

Where: Gwinnett Historic Courthouse, 185 W. Crogan St., Lawrenceville

Cost: Free

For more information: Call 770-822-5450