Mara Rago, QBurgh’s very own resident photographer, was featured at an exhibition in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware during Pride month.
For the past two years, Rago has been featured by the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center. Philip Livingston, a resident of Rehoboth Beach and owner of the Philip Morton Gallery, purchased one of her pieces. After owning the piece, Livingston wanted to feature Rago’s work at his gallery. The exhibition was entitled “Souls” and mainly featured Rago’s male nudes.
At an early age, Rago was introduced to photography. “My grandfather used to always hand me his camera at family parties,” she recounts. With the instructions to “take some pictures” and a point-and-shoot camera in hand, she developed her passion for photography. This love for the medium carried on into her adult life. Mara tells of a past girlfriend accusing her of being too “clingy” and suggesting that she find a hobby. Naturally, she enrolled in a photography course at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
After taking the class she was “bitten by the bug” and became obsessed with photography. Her first photo shoot was for a friend in her attic. Her friend was an aspiring model at the time and needed pictures to get started. The mother of her friend, upon seeing the photos, urged Rago to become a photographer. From there she started charging people to do shoots in her makeshift studio in the attic. At that time, Mara Rago was still quite an amateur. “I didn’t know anything, all I knew was that I loved it,” she said. From this starting point, she learned photography from other artists but was widely self-taught.
Rago still mainly does portraits. Her exhibition in Rehoboth Beach was of her fine art nudes. She first discovered nude photography during her class at the Center for the Arts. She recalls that the instructor would always use women as the subjects of the shoots. Rago and the other women taking the class made it their goal to have a male as the subject. She called up a friend who volunteered to be their model. Upon doing this shoot she “fell in love with the male body. The curves, the muscles, and the shadows. I became obsessed with the male form.”
She’s tried taking pictures of other things but has found them boring and “felt nothing.” One day she tried taking photographs of white mums against a white backdrop. The lack of contrast between the subject and the background excited her. Immediately this was different than the other still lives – she felt a connection to the soul of the bouquet. Through this experience she discovered she has to take pictures of living things, things that have souls, she can connect to. “The soul of my subject, the soul in between, and the soul of myself these three combined create my art,” she says.
Mara has previously worked with several former Pittsburgh LGBTQ publications including Pittsburgh’s Out, Cue Pittsburgh, and Equal Magazine.
To see more of Rago’s work, you can visit her website here.