By Emily Williams
Vestavia Hills photographer George Elliott yearns to bring the beach to Birmingham for the third annual Art in the Hills festival.
For Elliott, his coastal photos, in particular, are his visions of what he calls “beach time,” the process of getting away from the daily grind of the city to relax near surf and sand.
“When I take a photo of a landscape, I want people to think about the beauty of God’s work,” he said. “That and I want them to appreciate what beach time is all about.”
Birmingham locals looking for artistic escape can find Elliott’s photography as well as many other works by local artists at the Vestavia Hills Beautification Board’s Art in the Hills festival. Part of the Dogwood Festival, the event will be April 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the new City Hall.
Elliott said he learned his artistic trade during his 30 years working in the public relations department at BellSouth.
“I worked a lot with folks in newspaper who taught me a lot about photography,” he said. “That’s where I learned about the composition of a photograph and color.”
With his newly developed photographic eye, Elliott said, he began taking his camera with him on various traveling adventures. He has since taken photos all across the country, including favorite spots in North Carolina and his home in Port St. Joe, Florida.
“I’ve always been drawn to any bodies of water, whether it be ponds, oceans or anything else,” he said. “I have a cousin who lives up in Ohio and he has a pond on his property up there and I take photos of it every time I go up for a visit.”
According to Elliott, his ultimate goal when shooting a space is to evoke a feeling of appreciation and awe for the photograph’s viewers.
Elliott finds his own beach haven on the Florida coast. He started family vacations to the beach in areas such as Pensacola and Destin, moving back to the Alabama coast when things got too crowded, but the people followed.
“We chose Port St. Joe mostly because my wife learned to walk on that beach,” he said. “We bought an old mill house in 2000 and now we spend a few months down there every year and the children go down there and the grandchildren, too.”
Elliott said that many of the pictures he takes are for family and one family member in particular. He lost his daughter Amelia in 1995 while she was at camp.
“I often take pictures for her,” he said. “I know that if she were here today, one of the things she would want is for us to take time and appreciate the world around us.”
Her legacy lives on in his photos and through the Amelia Center at Children’s of Alabama. Elliott and his family began the non-profit grief counseling center to provide a support system for children, parents and families who have experienced the death of a child.
In addition to art, this year’s Art in the Hills will include food trucks and performances by The New Hooteneers, Mutton Chops 7-piece jazz band, the AU Rhythm hip hop dance team, Mason Music Studios, the Liberty Park Middle School band, Magic City Klezmer, the Vestavia Hills Elementary Central’s honor choir and Vestavia Hills Elementary East’s choir.
The Beautification Board also will announce the winners of this year’s youth, two-dimensional art contest for Vestavia Hills students. All submissions will be on display in City Hall before April 9.
“Vestavia Hills needed its own art show for so long,” Elliott said. “Everyone should come out and support the Dogwood Festival and a good, local art show with a lot of great artists. The show is a real plus for Vestavia, which I consider to be better than ever right now.”
For more information on the festival, visit www.vestaviabeautiful.com.