PORT ANGELES — The U.S. Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, has selected Port Angeles artist Amy M. McIntyre’s “June 28, 2020” photograph for its “COVID-19: American Experiences” gallery and permanent collection.
“I’m in disbelief,” McIntyre said Thursday night after learning she was among the 15 contributors included in Gallery 1 at tinyurl.com/PDN-American Experiences.
Very late one night in September, McIntyre got an email from her friend Catharine Copass.
The message encouraged her to submit a handful of photos to the library, which was creating the gallery in collaboration with the Flickr online community.
She sent in some shots. So did some 1,185 other photographers from around the country.
“Sometimes our friends need that extra voice in their ear telling them to put themselves forward and share their talents with a bigger audience, to go for it,” said Copass, who has admired McIntyre’s work on social media.
McIntyre, a documentary photographer, originated a project of her own earlier this year called “Any Port in a Storm: Pandemic Sundays in Port Angeles, Washington.” For 16 straight weeks, she captured moments of life — or quietude — in all corners of this place.
On the last night of the project, June 28, she directed her old Sony camera lens into the window of a childless classroom at Franklin Elementary School. The picture, with its date the only title, would join the scores McIntyre shot through spring and into summer.
“As I took all those photos, I went into it not knowing how long the pandemic would last … not knowing where this was headed,” she said.
McIntyre, 49, admits she wondered whether anyone anywhere would care about these pictures of Port Angeles.
“Yet I was driven to go and do it, every Sunday,” she said, and to then spend a few more hours editing her black-and-white images so she could post them on Facebook.
That was not only a stark testimony, but also her artistic practice.
“There’s a unique light, and ambient light in Port Angeles,” said McIntyre, who lived in Forks and in Seattle before she moved to Port Angeles in 2008 with her daughter, Imogen, now 14.
She saw that light through her lens as she photographed downtown storefronts, solo runners, front-yard gardens, the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
A number of her shots show people and objects seemingly trapped behind glass. This, along with the act of reflection, was a pattern that emerged in “Pandemic Sundays.”
Of her Franklin Elementary photo, the Library of Congress curator wrote how it “conveys very clearly how the pandemic has impacted schools throughout the country.”
For McIntyre, photographs are both reportage and heartfelt expression. Inside Franklin, where her daughter attended school and where she has worked as a paraeducator and volunteer, she witnessed a kind of suspended animation.
The “Pandemic Sundays” series, which began March 16 and concluded that last Sunday in June, became an utterly satisfying one.
And McIntyre believes the project helped her land her new job: executive director of the North Olympic History Center.
Her first day in the position was Aug. 3, two days after she started a different photo series: her annual “August Nights,” also posted on Facebook.
“I was worried I wouldn’t have time for art,” she said.
Fortunately, she created the time.
“Amy’s work hides in plain sight her incisive and subtle socio-political commentary,” Copass said of the two series on Facebook.
“The recognition is deserved,” she added. “We will look back on her [pandemic] photos and remember how our community coped with these hardships.”
McIntyre said she can’t wait for her next project.
“And I don’t know what that will be,” she said.
Then she quoted one of her heroines, photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976), who said: “Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.