West Virginia South April - May 2019 - Page 66

“It’s just the beauty of the land,” he says. “I’ve heard people say that once you have the mountains in the your blood you can never get rid of it.” • • • Fletcher stayed busy, photographing his scenic backyard paradise and traveling the country and abroad with his wife throughout the 1990s and even into the 2000s, but in 2008 a health issue caused him to slow down and readjust. That’s when he saw a weird pattern on his chest that looked like he had been in the sun. Except he hadn’t. “After a misdiagnosis of lupus, Fletcher learned he had an autoimmune deficiency called dermatomyositis. “Basically, the body attacks itself,” he says, explaining he can’t be exposed to sunlight without seeing spots on his skin. “The end stages it affects your lungs, kidneys, liver and heart.” But for now, it’s also affecting his photography as he can no longer travel for photo assignments or take pictures on sunny days. And although he says he definitely feels limited as to how can work and he does worry about what the future might hold in terms of his health, he is pleased with some of the photographs that have come as a result. “It forced me to work in more lowlight situations,” he says. “I work in the rain more. That way you get natural color saturation. I aim to catch natural light and natural color at its best. If you’re shooting in the rain or on a wet day, you don’t have to touch color. You get to see what’s really there.” So he’s become well-known for photos of the night sky and sunrises and sunsets as well as those photos of rainy days when a lot of photographers might stay indoors. Two of those photos have even resulted in what he says are the two things he is most proud of in his professional career, as sunrise shots won bronze medals in a national VA competition in 2017 and 2018. (He’s awaiting the result for 2019.) “I’ve had awards and stuff before, but it meant a lot,” he says. And although he’s restricted in his travel, he still goes out every day and shoots what he knows best. Perhaps that’s because it’s the image that started it all. “I want people to see the beauties of West Virginia,” he says. “It surrounds us if you have the eyes to see it.” “I truly believe that’s what I was born to do.” • • • Fletcher’s work can be found locally at Tamarack, at the Addison Center in Webster Springs and on www.thomas- r-fletcher.pixels.com. 66 ❖ SOUTH ❖ APRIL-MAY '19