In Profile

Margy Dudley

BY Sarah Schmerler, November 1, 2013

Photography elicits a mix of chemical reactions—we’re not talking darkroom developer baths, but the emotional responses that come from seeing an image of the world fixed on a piece of paper. Margy Dudley admits to suffering from the photo-enthusiast syndrome, and lucky for those around her, she channeled it into Open Shutter Gallery. A popular locus on the main drag of Durango, Colorado, it not only serves the local community with exhibitions of living and past masters, but also does outreach with weekly lectures, workshops, and events. At times you’ll even see Dudley’s own images on the exposed brick walls. “Photographers have a certain curiosity and passion about the world,” says Dudley. “It always amazes me that this two-dimensional thing they make—basically just a bunch of shapes and tones—can make you feel shock, or joy, or make you laugh.” Dudley grew up on New York City’s Upper East Side, and from the moment she took a photo class in sixth grade and got her first camera, she was hooked, spending her afternoons and weekends shooting street scenes. A lover of the outdoors despite her urban roots, Dudley pursued sports as well as photography at boarding school in Kent, Connecticut, and later at Wheaton College where she got her B.A. in psychology. “I had never thought of art or photography as a career,” she explains. “I sort of thought a career meant you wear a suit.” Graduating in 1980, Dudley spent the next few years in banking, a job she calls “a disaster.” She left for a position in ad sales at Fairchild Publications, where she fared better. Married in 1984, Dudley found herself raising four boys in the suburbs of Westchester County, photographing all the while. Travel with her active family meant skiing in places like Telluride and Taos, and in 1999 it dawned on Dudley and her husband that, with the Internet changing the workplace, they could move out West to the landscape they loved. “Everybody thought we had lost our minds. And maybe we had,” says Dudley. “But it was the best thing we ever did.” Dudley realized that while Durango had galleries aplenty, what it lacked was a retail photo space. “I was friends with Candace Dwan and learned a lot by watching her. I knew that I could work on consignment and not have an inventory, that I would need lighting and a credit-card machine. And that for the first few years, I would be lucky to break even.” Open Shutter began operations in 2001, exhibiting works in a variety of price ranges and often pairing accomplished, though lesser-known, living practitioners with secondary-market work by past masters. Lois Greenfield, whom Dudley approached directly via phone, came out West for commissions at local ballet companies—and a show. Craig Semetko showed with Open Shutter early in his career, and Nick Brandt exhibited with her back when his work went for $800. Reaching out directly to people had become Dudley’s mark in trade. “If someone comes in grumpy, we want them to leave feeling good,” she says. “And if we make a sale, even better. I know I’m a promoter. But I truly believe that photography should be within everyone’s reach.”