Steven Tapper, while vacationing Up North, went for an early-morning bike ride.
He pedaled down a side road not knowing where it would lead and came across an unattended flower stand with bouquets sold on the honor system.
Impressed by the beauty of the petals and the richness of the colors, he pulled out a camera — he always keeps one with him — and clicked.
The resulting image is one of three he will be showing at the 31st-annual “Our Town Art Show & Sale,” a juried all-media art show being held Oct. 13-16 at the Community House in Birmingham. This year’s event will showcase some 400 pieces by 165 Michigan artists working in diverse media.
“I am inspired by little things that often go unnoticed,” Tapper says about the works he will have on view, including an opening waterlily and wildflowers from his own garden. “Some of my best photographs have come from right outside my doorstep.
“Art in nature and the infinite variations of color, pattern, light and shadow are sources for my design inspiration. Mindful of my surroundings and creative possibilities, I take time to become an observer, selecting and then blending the use of equipment, technology and presentation.”
Tapper, vice president of sales and design at Tapper’s Fine Jewelry, recognized an interest in art as an elementary student in Detroit and began with clay. He attended what has become the College for Creative Studies before graduating in fine arts and education from Eastern Michigan University.
“My interest in photography began at Eastern, where my dorm mate had a darkroom,” recalls Tapper, who gave the school’s undergraduate commencement speech and received an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree in 2010. “I learned about the processes and saw them as magical.
“I asked to go with him while he was shooting pictures, and he allowed me to take some. When I looked through the viewfinder, I narrowed my vision and had a frame. All of sudden, I began the process of focusing, composing and capturing. I realized this was a way of expressing myself.”
Tapper, 65, who taught in Sanilac County schools before entering the jewelry business almost 40 years ago, relates to all kinds of photographic subjects, including people, religious iconography and architecture. His work, captured with Canon digital equipment, has been exhibited at the Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield and the Detroit Artists Market.
“I exercise at the Jewish Community Center and, one day, when they were building the Berman Center for the Performing Arts, I noticed magnificent shadows and light,” recalls Tapper, who has taught photography at the JCC. “I then created a whole series about light and shadow, and I’m blessed to take something positive away from wherever I go.”
Whether taking pictures or designing jewelry, Tapper lives by remarks from National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones about celebrating what’s right with the world.
“I love working with color,” he says. “The more vibrant and alive the color is, the more I feel connected to it — whether the color is in nature or gemstones. There’s an emotional connection that comes with seeing color.”
Living in a home filled with his own images as well as paintings created by his wife, Patti, Tapper thinks of photographic projects as providing a means of discovering himself and communicating with others.
“Photography is a record of my life in different ways,” says the father of three: Julia, Shayna Rose and Alex (Erica). “It’s about how I’ve grown spiritually, emotionally and visually.
“I engage people and take photographs of people because I want to be able to meet different types of people and understand where they’re coming from while appreciating the breadth of humanity.
“Ultimately, my goal is to make a connection, creating links between my experiences and those of the people who will be wearing the jewelry I have designed or the viewers standing in front of the images I have produced.”
As Tapper designs jewelry, he wants to use his creative ability to help clients appreciate the aesthetics of items with emotional value. He believes that goal comes with the right designs and searching for new ideas. He helps guide clients to re-inspire their old jewelry and create new pieces for results they want.
In deciding what to submit for “Our Town,” Tapper sought to capture the mood of the presenting organization.
“The Community House is an uplifting place, and I wanted the pictures to help express that,” Tapper says about the center that will be using 35 percent of proceeds from art sales to fund its outreach programs for children.
“When I looked at the opportunity, I noted a place for me to share what I think is beautiful. I love the images and think each one has a vibrancy and life to it.” *
The “Our Town Art Show & Sale” takes place Oct.13 -16 at the Community House in Birmingham. There is no admission fee Oct. 14-16. The event kicks off with an Art in Vogue Opening Night Party Thursday, Oct. 13, including an awards program, hors d’oeuvres, entertainment, fashion/art presentations and the first opportunity to preview and purchase art. $75-$250. (248) 644-5832; tchserves.org.