Church Health Center employee Ken Hall doesn't normally take on the role of curator for the gallery attached to the Leadership Memphis building on South Main, but after waking up from a procedure in his doctor's office, he liked what he saw.
"I awoke from a really good sleep and saw these beautiful photographs of nature," Hall said. "Later, I found out they were taken by my doctor, so I recommended him to the people at Leadership Memphis and Gallery 363."
Gastroenterologist David Sloas started taking photos for that exact reason: His patients needed something pleasant to look at after coming out of a procedure. But Sloas didn't stop there. Five years after he hung the photos in his lobby, Sloas' hobby has turned into a civic campaign with Sloas donating all the proceeds from the sale of his photographs to charity.
In addition to selling his work in local galleries, Sloas also helped set up the new Nature Photography Garden at the Memphis Botanic Garden. Wanting to create something similar to the photography garden at his home (four acres of sprawling landscape in Cordova complete with a private lake and waterfall), Sloas approached Botanic Garden executive director Jim Duncan with his idea.
"At first, they didn't know how serious I was," Sloas said. "They looked over all my information and said they'd call me back in four to six weeks, but he called me back in two days."
Opened this past October, the Nature Photography Garden at the Botanic Garden is self-sustaining, with the plants providing shade, shelter, and food to attract wildlife. Concrete walkways provide level ground for a tripod, and because each plant is carefully placed, photographers can take advantage of both afternoon and morning light.
"Everything has been done for a reason, which makes it a convenient place to practice your hobby," Duncan said.
This spring marks the first bloom in the Nature Photography Garden, but Sloas' focus has now turned to developing a similar garden for the Sears Crosstown building. Crosstown Arts co-director Todd Richardson said that after hearing about the Nature Photography Garden at the Botanic Garden, the Crosstown team began brainstorming where their garden could be.
"Currently, there are three bigger green spaces that we are looking at," Richardson said. "One is the big parking lot. We plan to turn that sea of asphalt into a public plaza. Another possibility would be west of the parking garage, and the rooftop is also a possibility. But how it all gets worked out is still up in the air right now."
Once the location is set for the Crosstown Nature Photography Garden, Sloas would like to see it become a certified wildlife habitat with native plants that attract wildlife, an heirloom fruit orchard, a fountain for butterflies and hummingbirds, and numerous other attractions.
"It's going to be a beautiful and creative way to use empty land, and it's an opportunity for people in the neighborhood to use this space in a way they couldn't before," Richardson said.
The exhibit at Gallery 363 featuring the photography of David Sloas will remain open until January 21st, with an extended schedule possible. All proceeds from the show benefit the MIFA.