Advanced Search | Search A!:
Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

Virginia Highlands Festival Unveils Signature Art

Greg Finney with his signature collage. The wonderful details can be seen in the photos below.
Greg Finney with his signature collage. The wonderful details can be seen in the photos below.
Additional photos below »

February 25, 2007

ABINGDON, VA — The signature art for the 2007 Virginia Highlands Festival is a collage of images representing the award-winning two-week event, now celebrating its 59th year. The artwork was created by photographer Gregory G. Finney of Abingdon, using pictures from the archives of photographer Michael J. Pierry, Jr., also from Abingdon.

Finney says, "I am pleased with the results of the festival art because I think that it shows the mood and feel of the festival — incorporating our historic architecture, local arts, people and events. I appreciate the invitation and hope that everyone enjoys the art I created."

He continues, "The idea had been in my head for several years now. Previously, when I did Abingdon landmarks — the Starving Artist Cafe, the Martha Washington Inn, and several old barns and churches in the area — I wanted to do a panoramic of the most historic and important structures in the town, lining them all up together for a montage art piece with people walking in the foreground representing such things as artists at work, people on bikes or walking with kids and animals, moms pushing baby strollers, etc."

Finney concludes, "For the past six years, I have not had the time to do the work I had in the back of my mind due to our very busy schedule here at the studio. So, when I was invited to do the signature art for the festival, I knew exactly where I wanted to go with the artwork. I made the time and effort to get the artwork done, but my archive of local event photography was nowhere near what I needed to produce the art. I called a good friend and fellow photographer, Mike Pierry, Jr., to utilize his vast archive of local images to produce the festival artwork. Mike has been instrumental in this community, photographing events and local landscapes for many years, and I commend him for his work and efforts because the festival art would not have been possible if it had not been for his endeavors."


The following story appeared in "Going Digital" (January 2000), reprinted by permission, A! Magazine for the Arts, published by Arts Alliance Mountain Empire.

Finney developed a style of digital art that complements the local historic district. He has spent hundreds of hours experimenting in Photoshop software to achieve the desired effect that resembles watercolors and pastels. He then adds hand applications of real watercolor and prismacolor pencils. He has been commissioned by several businesses, organizations, and individuals to create photographic art prints of their homes and buildings.

"I only use archival dyes in the printmaking process," Finney explains. "These dyes are tested and documented by leading experts to last 65-75 years." He has photographed and composed several local scenes and places that have won awards at the Virginia Professional Photographers Association print competition. [In 2000] one print, "Sunset on Cape Henry," won the Best of Specialist category for digitally enhanced, retouched, hand-colored or special effects photography. Another print awarded a blue ribbon as excellent was "Starving Artist Neon" [depicting Abingdon's Starving Artist Cafe].

[At that time, Finney was] working on a new series and style that would incorporate his fine-quality photography into the art print arena. "I should have this technique and my own personal style created by spring 2000," he continues. "The photographic art print series is something that I do during my spare time. Portrait studies are my bread and butter and require most of my time."

Finney also uses digital imaging and enhancement in his portrait work. "Almost all of my wall portraits are enhanced and retouched by digital...I now have total control of my portrait prints, not to mention the time factor.

"It's a great time to be in the photographic industry," Finney says, "with the recent developments in digital cameras, software, scanners and, most of all, direct to photographic paper from digital files, with no loss in quality, even in prints up to 40x60 inches. Your imagination is unlimited as to t he visual enhancement and manipulation of images, whether it be as subtle as removing blemishes on a portrait or as complex as creating a multi-layered art print or composite photograph with dozens of image layers combined in one scene."

An example of this is the composite image Finney created for the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center — multiple images such as exteriors, interiors, skies, parking lot reflections, and typefaces with logos were combined to form one photograph.

According to Finney, it is very expensive and sometimes hard to justify a complete digital set-up, especially in the camera room,, for the small Mom and Pop photography studio. Professional digital cameras start around $25,000. "It takes a lot of film and processing to justify switching to a digital camera of this quality," he says.

Independent photographers like Finney are creating quality images on traditional medium format cameras and having their negatives high resolution scanned, then do their own retouching, dodging, burning, cropping, color balancing, and density corrections on computer.

"Suppliers and fine art print makers are using digital as well," Finney continues. "Copies and reproduction print colors are more saturated, highlights and solids have more detail than film reproduction of art prints. Recently I read an article about a fine art printer that scans original artwork in sizes up to 7x10 feet, then uses the computer to color balance, enhance brush strokes, detail and sharpness, manipulate hue and saturation of color. The final test is that he makes a print of the art on a large format inkjet printer using archival dyes or pigments, cuts out a section on the copy, then lays it in the exact same spot on the original. The human eye cannot distinguish between the original and the copy. This was not possible using traditional film to plate to press for making reproduction art prints.

"The digital age is here," Finney concludes. "Photographers and fine artists not utilizing this new digital media in some form or another in their work may not be as creative a their minds will let them. I agree that there is nothing more beautiful than a watercolor or oil painting done in the traditional way, but artists also need to expand their abilities and minds by using digital media techniques in some of their work. It truly has expanded my ability as a photographer and artist to create images in a style that my clients seek me out from others."

About Greg Finney:

Born and raised in Lebanon, Va., Finney was involved with photography as early as age 14. He developed his own film and made photographic prints in his father's bomb shelter, which served as a darkroom.

He earned a BFA degree from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he majored in photography, cinematography and graphic design. He worked with Commonwealth Films as a photographer and cinematographer, then was named art director for Babcock Phillips Corporation in Richmond. In the early 1970s he used his photographic and graphic arts talents in his position of coordinator of public information for Southwest Virginia Commonwealth College. In 1974 he opened the first full-service photography studio in Lebanon, offering wedding and portrait photography. In 1984 he co-founded Jack Rabbit Printing Company in Abingdon, Va. In 1998 he opened Finney Studios on Abingdon's Main Street, specializing in fine portraiture of children, families and high school seniors. In 2001 he moved his studio to a large facility on Pecan Street, to accommodate the increased demand for his work.

Finney has received many state and national awards for his photography. He was awarded a 2003 Fellow of Photography, the highest state degree awarded, as well as Photographer of the Year by the Virginia Professional Photographers Association in both 2003 and 2005. He has received four Kodak Gallery of Excellence awards for Outstanding Prints in state competition and several Best of Category awards over the past nine years.

This year Finney was awarded an Honorary Master of Photography degree from Professional Photographers of America (PPA). He also received a Gold Photographer of the Year award for his print competition entries from PPA. Other national awards include an AN-NE award for Best High School Senior Marketing Promotion and a Silver Photographer of the Year award. In 2005 he earned the Certified Professional Photographer status for his print excellence and written certification exam.

The full panoramic view of Finney's collage artwork.

On the left side, the William King Regional Arts Center can be seen above the roofline of Barter II, while many festival activities are depicted around the area of the Barter Theatre.

The center section captures activities around the beautiful Martha Washington Inn.

The right side adds the Creeper Trail and The Arts Depot to the celebration.