Though pharmacy and photography hardly go together, Anthem resident and photographer Robert Elenbaas shares a link between the two.
Born and raised in Southern California, Elenbaas moved to the Bay Area in 1968 to attend pharmacy school at the University of California-San Francisco. It was there he met his wife, Julia, also a pharmacist. They married in 1972, and by 1974 the couple relocated to the Kansas City area following the completion of their residencies.
The experience was the beginning of Elenbaas’ interest in fine art photography.
“My interest in photography began while I was in pharmacy school in San Francisco,” Elenbaas explained of his initiation to landscape and nature photography. “The parks and recreation department offered a photography center that had a huge darkroom for making black-and-white prints. I took advantage of the facility to learn basic darkroom techniques.”
Beginning their careers in Kansas City, Elenbaas and his wife found work and family life would claim top priority. But the camera was never far away.
“Although not trained formally as an artist, I did learn some elements of graphic design in high school as a member of the yearbook staff,” Elenbaas explained. “I was also introduced to aspects of color theory during one of the fine art electives required at the time, but I was focused on science during my early formal education.”
The science took hold in his career as a clinical pharmacist with the Emergency Department at Truman Medical Center and as a faculty member of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine. Elenbaas is recognized as being the first clinical pharmacist in the country to practice full-time emergency medicine. He became one of the members of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, eventually assuming the role of its first executive director.
It was 15 years ago when the Elenbaas family relocated back to the western United States. With their careers winding down, they began their research — and landed on Anthem. There, they found, boasted many benefits: easy access to their families in Southern California, a vibrant golf community, and the endless beauty of the Valley’s high desert. A renewed interest in photography started with joining friends on wilderness backpacking trips into the mountains of Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado and Idaho, places so fascinating and beautiful they defied words. But Elenbaas found he could convey the moments and stories in his images.
“The advent of digital cameras and the digital darkroom were major factors in facilitating this evolution,” he said. “There was a chance to apply classical darkroom techniques, with the more specific digital darkroom techniques when creating my images.”
Professional photographers Elenbaas credits with his growth in the medium are Guy Tal, Michael Frye, Charlotte Gibb and Sean Bagshaw. All have uniquely different styles, subject matter and developing techniques.
Asked from where he derives his inspiration, Elenbaas answered, “Our natural world amazes me, be it grand vistas or intimate details one sees only on close inspection. I seek to communicate aspects of our world that people may not normally appreciate.
“I include the Japanese kanji ‘wa’ as part of my logo, which translates as ‘harmony’ and ‘peace’ — as in being in harmony with one’s environment and in a peaceful state of mind.”
Elenbaas considers his photography to be an expressive art form, using his images as visual metaphors for the emotions he felt when he was making the photograph.
“I am frequently amazed and awed by things I find in nature, its peace and tranquility occasionally contrasted with it to the rage and fury,” he summarized of his inspiration.
He is a member of the Sonoran Arts League and is one of the volunteer gallery managers. He participates in the annual Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour each November and occasionally does pop-up shows with the league during the year. To view a selection of his spectacular images or to contact him, visit relenbaasphoto.com.
Contact arts columnist Shea Stanfield on firstname.lastname@example.org.