Randolph Couple Brings Images of Southwest to Gifford Gallery

Arny and Cil Spahn have long background in photography

Arny and Cil Spahn

As they prepare to hang their exhibit in the Gifford Medical Center gallery, Arnold and Priscilla Spahn hold up photos they took in the Southwest. Priscilla’s photo is of a Navajo weaver in Gouldings, Utah. Arny holds a photo of what is known as “the left mitten” in Monument Valley, Utah.

Randolph couple Arnold “Arny” and Priscilla “Cil” Spahn present images of their travels to the Southwest in a joint photography exhibit at Gifford Medical Center March 26 through April 30.

The Spahns have been taking photographs since they were very young; Cil since she was 7 and Arny since age 9.

Born in Providence, R.I., Arny joined the U.S. Air Force at age 18 and then went on to work in Danbury, Conn., building high voltage test equipment. It was there that his talents in photography were recognized, and Arny became the company photographer and also technical writer.

Cil was raised in Connecticut and as a teenager won a number of awards for her photography. When the photography teacher at her high school became ill, Cil was asked to step in. At age 16, she did black and white photofinishing at a local camera shop and took photographs to accompany an article submitted to a national architectural magazine. She says she often wondered if the magazine editors knew the photographer was a teen.
In college at Skidmore, she both photographed and wrote for the school paper, moving up to managing editor her senior year.

Cil and Arny met volunteering as “flaggers,” or safety workers, at race tracks with the New England Region Sports Car Club of America. Cil was one of the first women course workers at tracks in Lime Rock, Conn., and Sebring, Fla.

A photography course in South Woodstock at the Doscher Country School of Photography paid for courtesy of Arny’s GI Bill of Rights first brought the couple to Vermont in 1971. Inspired by the course and the Green Mountain State, they settled in Vermont and opened a photography business first in Brookfield and then in Randolph, Bridge Hill Studio, running it together until retiring in 1997.

As part of their business, they rejoined the sports car racing world as licensed freelance photographers, taking and selling thousands of action photographs to racers and publications. They are also both past presidents of the Vermont and New England Professional Photographers Association and were both trustees of the New England Institute of Professional Photography.

Today, they are active in their community as board members of the Randolph Rotary, The Clara Martin Center and The Citizens Advisory Board for Reparative Justice.

A hobbyist woodworker, or wood turner, Arny continues to write and photograph for The Woodchuck Woodturners of Northern Vermont as their newsletter editor.

The couple also enjoys traveling, specifically Elderhostel or Road Scholar educational tours. They have been taking the tours since they retired almost two decades ago. A recent trip took them to Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, where they visited scenes from Tony Hillerman’s fictional stories of Navajo people. Those scenes from the Southwest make up their exhibit at Gifford.

“What we fell in love with about the Hillerman Country was the Navajo’s basic desire to be in harmony with their world. It’s a concept they call ‘hozho,’ and in their prayers, they ask only to walk in beauty. When you travel through much of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, physical beauty is all around you,” notes the couple in a write-up on its trip, displayed as part of the exhibit.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. The Gifford gallery is located just inside the hospital’s main entrance at 44 S. Main St. (Route 12) in Randolph. Call Gifford at (802) 728-7000 or Volunteer Coordinator Julie Fischer at (802) 728-2324 for more information.

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