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Local News

Lemont man captured the artistry

The Lemont Artists Guild is hosting an exhibit of select works of William "Bill" Uznanski, also known as "the handsome photographer" at the Lemont Center for the Arts.
The Lemont Artists Guild is hosting an exhibit of select works of William "Bill" Uznanski, also known as "the handsome photographer" at the Lemont Center for the Arts.

Army veteran. Photographer. Family-oriented. Friend.

This was William “Bill” Uznanski, also known as “the handsome photographer,” because he had a “wonderful demeanor and charisma about him all the time,” said former Lockport resident Liz Connelly, now of Chicago, and president of the Lemont Artists Guild.

The Guild is hosting an exhibit of Bill’s work through Oct. 27 at the Lemont Center for the Arts gallery. Bill was 71 when he died Feb. 27.

Although Bill had participated in other exhibits through the years, this Lemont show is his first solo show. But that, too, was Bill.

Liz said Bill was humble and never sought accolades. Instead, he preferred to work behind the scenes and shift attention to other artists.

“He was always willing to help, whether it be transport artwork, take pictures, set up shows including the floor plan/layout, hang artwork and just be there to help anyone with what they needed at a particular event,” Liz said in an email. “It was fun spending time with him.”

Although Liz is a painter and not a photographer, Bill supported Liz in her work and did the same for other guild members, she said.

“I personally looked up to him as a mentor,” Liz said in the email. “He encouraged me in so many ways and always made me feel like I could accomplish things. I will miss him so much.”

Creativity and hard work came naturally to Bill. When his parents – his father was a contractor and his mother was a designer – opened Ace Hardware 52C on Southwest Highway in Palos Hills when Bill was 13, he worked at the store after school and on weekends.

Bill met his wife, Nancy – a teacher who also worked at the store – and married her in 1973. They built their own home and founded Uznanski Creations Distinctive Photography in the early 1990s.

“He liked to shoot the world around him,” Nancy said. “You see it, you shoot it. There are so many beautiful things in the world. He just enjoyed the artistry involved in photography.”

For examples of Bill’s work, visit theherald-news.com/lifestyle/a-and-e.

At a glance

“Intrigue:” This piece won first place in the 2014 “The Best of the Best” show, hosted by Association of Fine Arts. “Intrigue” was the first photograph to win any of the to four awards in the more than 30 year history of that show.

Southwest images: Inspired from Bill’s love of history and especially his love of Southwest culture.

European images: These are from Bill’s three trips to Europe. The first, in Germany as a military policeman during the Vietnam War, kindled his love for photography.

The second was captured in 1998 when he accompanied the Lemont High School band during their performances.

The third, during a cruise up the Rhine River. Bill used his design sense and computer techniques for his images.

Alphabet collection: From the alphabet book Bill created for his grandchildren.

The fairies and the graphic novel: Playful, silly concepts Bill created with his daughter Jackie.

Scenic Illinois series: Vignettes of various scenes, including Lemont.

Tiffany candle holders series: All photographed on 4x5-inch transparency film for a book on this aspect of Tiffany’s work.

Hero series: Photographs that show Bill’s regard for the everyday hero.

The Bridge: This photograph was selected for the cover of the 1995 Ameritech Southwest Wide Area official telephone directory of Illinois Bell.

Cibachrome prints: Because of their vibrant color and longevity, Bill used this medium for several of his pieces. When he learned the process might harm workers, he stopped using this process.

Other awards: A couple of the displayed works are from the Professional Photographers Association of Northern Illinois, including one image that went into a show that traveled the U.S.

On the north wall, Bill’s “Blue Door” earned both an Award of Excellence and Superior Quality.

Infrared film: Nancy won a course in infrared photography and let Bill take her place because he was interested in the topic.

He could use it in full sunlight and then, in the lab, create an emanating glow from his subjects and surroundings or emphasize the beauty on black and white images. Examples in the exhibit include a local family at their stable and Bill’s infrared nudes series.

Technique: In portraits, Bill captured people’s stories and personalities through natural posing. In production, Bill added variety and depth. He developed a technique for digital backdrops to complement the photos.

He printed photos on unique mediums, such as metals or watercolor paper, often doing his own matting and framing, too.

Organizations: According to Bill’s obituary, Bill was active in the Lemont and Homer Township Chambers of Commerce. He helped found the Lemont Artists Guild; was president, treasurer and general board member of the Lemont Historical Society; and served as director of the Alliance of Fine Arts for nine years.

He remained on the board for the Alliance of Fine Arts and helped produce the Best of the Best fine arts show for more than 20 years.

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com.

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