The Narnia House, with its original stained glass windows, prime lighting conditions, secret garden and hand-painted walls is sort of like a hidden treasure. The 1897 Victorian house in High Point currently doubles as the personal residence and public photography studio for Christopher Goette, master instructor of the North Carolina Photography Group.
In the foyer of the studio, the scent of locally handmade soaps tickles the nose hairs, drawing attention to other handmade crafts that share the same space on a wrought-iron stand against the wall leading into the living room. In the living space, Goette sits comfortably on a well used couch talking to a room full of individuals strapped with camera equipment and paying close attention to his every word.
“I like to teach,” Goette says. “It helps to keep me from getting burnt out.”
Having been a photographer for more than 25 years, Goette has held the title of Martha Stewart Wedding Bride Choice Winner in 2011, and is the regional photographer for Estée Lauder in addition to being an instructor with Professional Photographers of America. He has owned several photography studios.
Around 7 p.m. on August 24, 13 photographers of the NCPG, a meetup Goette started in 2008, head out of the doors of Narnia House to embark on a downtown photo walk after enjoying an open house at Narnia. Models Sarah Gilchrist and Shāna Renée Gordon-Cole file out with them, and Goette heads straight for his vehicle to start the tour. From the start Goette coaches the group on proper photo taking techniques for the time of day.
“Your aperture should be on the lowest setting,” Goette yells. “Your cameras should be on manual.”
After a quarter mile walk that included a trek across a busy downtown street, Goette leads the group to a photographer’s dream backdrop.
The property of the Golden Oldies Inspiration Warehouse, sits in a neighborhood void of human life. The yard, overflowing with rusted fair remnants and a few too many pieces of garden furniture, is a scene that any vintage picker would appreciate.
The grounds of the showroom are descended upon by the photographers’ who head in the direction of leaning tacks of terracotta pots, stationary racking and motley colored carnival rides.
In the middle of the mounds of what could be called junk rest hundreds of primary-color iron chairs, half that amount in mini toy motorcycles, several wrought iron greenhouse frames filled with a myriad of metal structures, the distressed frame of an airplane ride large enough to fit at least two adults and a respectable selection of train cars.
Gilchrist contorts her body through a missing front window to fit inside one of the train cars. Armed with cameras, fanny packs, backpacks and lenses, snappers come at her from all angles with hopes of capturing the perfect shot.
Not far from Gilchrist, Gordon-Cole is posed on a set of leaning motorcycles surrounded by four photographers pointing their cameras at her from opposites angles in hopes of capturing her in the optimal light. Many of those in attendance are joining the group for the first time or consider themselves amateur photographers, yet they handle the models and navigate their surroundings as if photography is second nature to them.
Miles Sherrill, a professional photographer from commercial giant Kreber studios in High Point and a continuing education photography teacher at GTCC, argues the courage one can obtain from wielding a camera.
“I can be two and a half feet away from a subject and get a shot,” Sherrill said. “And it’s kind of an intimate thing we have. Normally I am very shy. But because of this,” Sherrill points his camera towards the sky, “it brings me out of my shyness.”
Cindy Walker, a former employee of high school photography company Lifetouch and a student of Sherrill’s, found her courage through a huge win.
“A picture I took in his class I entered in the Central Carolina Fair amateur photography contest,” Walker beams from ear to ear. “In the ‘people’ category it came in third place. My first competition ever!”
A shutterbug focuses his attention on a piece of a carnival ride that looks to have possibly been an iron boat. On the sides is a lively Chinese dragon spouting orange and red flames on a powder blue background. Though rusted, the shades of deterioration seem to blend with the color scheme rather than take away from it.
“Time to head back,” Goette yells. “We’re starting to lose light!”
No one seems to be in a rush to pack up and leave.
“Look what I can do!” Gordon-Cole’s daughter shouts to several camera-wielding novices as she storms up the side of a random pile of gravel, the rocks scrabbling underneath her feet.