The longtime wedding photographer is pointing her lens toward a new page of her career.
Although she is one of eight artists the Columbus Arts Festival selected to participate in its educational program for newcomers to the festival scene, Claudia Retter isn't an emerging artist, per se.
Retter has been photographing weddings in Central Ohio since the early 2000s through her photo studio business Aion Arts. At the time, her candid, photojournalism style was unique, and Aion Arts flourished with betrothed customers clamoring for her to document their weddings.
Happy to work in the nuptials scene, Retter's busy Aion Arts schedule soon took over most of the time she had dedicated to her gallery photography. After so many years, though, Retter started to crave new subject matter.
"[The wedding photography] really snowballed. That stuff took over. How do you turn down a $3,000 job?" Retter said. "I was able to stop waiting tables and support myself with a great living. But I wasn't shooting stuff for me anymore unless I was travelling. … How do you quit your job when it's going so well?"
Retter has been phasing out of her Aion Arts work, taking on fewer wedding commissions and working on making more pieces for galleries and festivals. Applying to show in the Columbus Arts Festival was one of the first steps of entering her career's new chapter.
"Life is too short to not do what makes you happy," Retter said. "I didn't sell lemonade as a kid; I sold paintings and paper flowers I had made."
An incessant need to document the little things she notices has always been present, Retter said. A small book she made in second grade proves it; under the prompt "What I would like to be when I grow up" is a drawing of her painting and the words "An Artist."
"I'm good at noticing things people don't," Retter said of her art's aesthetic. "I like getting to the soul of something."
Retter's documentary-style approach comes naturally. Perhaps that's why she was so successful at wedding photography - Retter tells a visual story. But the artist is not lost in process. Her photography also manages to convey her sensitive, adventurous spirit.
John Sollinger, Retter's boyfriend/flying instructor (that's right, Retter recently became a licensed flier), calls her the "patron saint of the mostly unloved."
In the next year Retter plans to work more with platinum palladium printing, a process used by photographers in the 1800s, in addition to making photographs with her iPhone, Holga, 35mm Minolta and Canon 7D.
Also in Retter's near future: another big trip somewhere. Her most recent journey, a multi-stop trek on a vintage plane, was the subject of a photo book she published called "The Flying Adventures of Two Candy Cane Pen Friends." She wore fairy wings much of the journey.
"My goal is to remind people there's magic in the world," Retter said.