LAKE PLACID – For more than three decades, Lake Placid photographer Nancie Battaglia has documented sports, culture and breaking news in the Adirondacks and around the world.
During that period, her photographs have appeared in national publications, such as The New York Times and Sports Illustrated, as well as regional ones like Adirondack Life and the Adirondack Explorer.
A large sampling of those photographic clips are now available in the main exhibit at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. The show, titled “…inPRINT…from published work…,” runs until June 22. The LPCA gallery is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and during theater performances.
Battaglia said she was approached by the art center to put on an exhibit last year, in part because it’s been a while since she had a show there. Her last one was 23 years ago to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
So over the winter and spring, she thought about how to put it together. Instead of coming up with an exhibit focused on matted and framed photographs, she went a different route.
“I thought it would be much more interesting and much more fun for people to see these hundreds and hundreds of clips,” Battaglia said.
Some photos in the show are in traditional frames with mattes, but most are in their published form, hung in plastic sheathing, giving the display a professional yet informal feel. They include work that dates back about three decades. It spans from black-and-white photos, taken with manual film cameras and developed in labs, to colorful images made up of digital pixels and edited on her computer.
One of the most colorful is an aerial shot of hundreds of canoes and kayaks, which she took in the summer of 2011 at the One Square Mile of Hope gathering in Inlet. The image shows 2,000 paddlers forming a gigantic raft on Fourth Lake. It has appeared in dozens of national and international publications, including National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Sierra magazine, Canoe & Kayak and, just this spring, Readers Digest.
Some photos, like the Inlet one, took some planning and required thought about how to get the best angle ahead of time. For others, she captured the moment as it unfolded before her. One shot that exemplifies the latter is of U.S. alpine skier Lindsey Vonn immediately after winning a gold medal in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Battaglia said the day she took that photo, she was assigned to cover luge or bobsled for Sports Illustrated that night; however, the rest of the day she was free to do as she pleased. Instead of wasting time, she went right to work and showed up at the downhill race, knowing that if she got some good photos she could still turn them into the Sports Illustrated editor for consideration.
“I knew they had guys on the mountain shooting the action, but I figured they didn’t have anyone at the finish line. So I said, ‘Oh heck, I’ll go to the finish line,” she said. “This day happened to be another one of my lucky days. I’m at the finish line, and Lindsey Vonn comes across, and I’m in a good enough spot that I can get these pictures of her falling down and celebrating and raising her arms in victory.
“The photo editor at that time said that was probably his favorite photo from the Olympics.”
Catching a break
Battaglia became interested in photography in high school while growing up in Geneseo. Her senior year, she audited some classes at the State University of New York at Geneseo, then in the late 1970s went on to attend Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Journalism, where she studied as an undergraduate and then graduate student.
One of the key moves she made at Syracuse was heading up the United Press International wire program, which was done by an upperclassmen or graduate student.
That experience helped her land the job as the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee’s chief still photographer for the 1980s Winter Olympic Games. She got the job after she was recommended by the UPI bureau chief in Albany.
That job, right out of college, would prove to be the opportunity of a lifetime, giving her the chance to put her stellar photographs in a big spotlight while allowing her to develop a network of contacts in the media industry at the same time.
“I was documenting everything and anything leading up to and through the Olympics,” Battaglia said. “It included construction, grips-and-grins and portraits and features and news.”
She also oversaw a staff of photographers.
When the games ended, instead of leaving the region, Battaglia decided to stick around because she liked the lifestyle and the area. She also saw an opportunity to make a living as a freelance photographer.
Some of the wire services needed freelancers in the Lake Placid region, including The Associated Press, UPI and The New York Times. With her experience at the recent games, she was able to step right into that role. She also picked up commercial work, shooting for small businesses, the tourism industry and others.
To this day, Battaglia has continued to provide regional and national publications with images of the latest happenings here. And she’s become a regular at the Winter Olympics. She plans to attend her 11th Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.
In today’s world, it seems like everyone has a camera and takes photos; however, few can say they make their living from the craft, marking it as their main source of income on their income tax forms every spring. Battaglia has been able to do that.
So what’s the secret to her continued success?
“I think, to be a professional photographer, you have to have an eye, you have to be able to see the story in the picture,” Battaglia said. “You certainly have to have the equipment. You have to know how to use the equipment. You have to have timing. You have to know how timing affects the final product of the picture. I think you have to have a lot of good senses about what’s happening around you.”