It’s a way to give back

It’s a promotional tool for exposure and improvement.

It’s a vehicle for celebrating photography as an art form.

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It’s a way for work to outlive the artist.

Man, this thing has Scott Church’s fingerprints all over it. Of all the photos he’s taken, of all the people he’s helped, of all the causes he’s gotten behind over the last 30 years, none represents who the local photographer is as a human being better than Scott Church’s Legacy Show 14.

Read More: Scott Church is imperfectly beautiful, and so are you

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Scott Church’s Legacy Show 14 will be staged from 5-10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 8 at Mulberry Art Studios, located at 21 North Mulberry Street in Lancaster and mask wearing and physical distancing practices will be in effect. Through 14 years of progressive success, the event has evolved into the largest annual fine art photography show on the East Coast.

“This is my baby,” said Church. “There really is no other way to say it. This is the thing I’m very, very proud of. I love this show. I love making it better. I don’t ever want to stop doing this show.

“I want people to come to the show and see the work,” Church continued. “I want people to find art in their lives. Art is not meant to be seen on your phone. It’s meant to be seen face-to-face. This is a perfect opportunity to expose yourself to fine art photography.”

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Scott Church’s Legacy Show showcases the images and work of over 100 local photographers from Lebanon, Lancaster, Harrisburg and Reading, as well as photographers from surrounding states and all over the world. The event features a festive atmosphere that also includes music and food for a $10 entrance fee.

“It’s just photography,” said Church, a graduate of Lebanon High and a Lebanon city resident. “All types, you name it. There is no specific subject matter, from one end of the spectrum to the other. This is a celebration. The photographers come from all over the place, but we have a tremendous community right here in central Pennsylvania. It’s a variety of work, but it’s not just local. It’s a big deal all around.

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“If you’re a photographer and want to have your work in the show, you just have to be on the list,” added Church. “We don’t censor the work or the photographers. People just want to show their best work. Some of the work can be shocking. Some of it can be serene. If people work hard, the work deserves to be seen. There is literally something for everyone. People want to live up to the quality of the work of other photographers. I like to outdo myself every year, and because of that, my work improves every year. It’s been a tremendous learning and growing process.”

It was with that mindset that Church founded the show 14 years ago. Not only has the Legacy Show met his original vision for it, the event has gone way beyond that.

Originally, Scott Church’s Legacy was a solo show, one that featured just his work. In its second year, the show included the work of a small group of photographers, then it was opened up to the community.

“I think the show achieved my vision five years ago,” said Church. “It’s become a thing that people would not miss. Over the last three years, it has surpassed everything I hoped the show could be. It just kept getting better. It’s kind of its own animal. It exists on its own.

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“My business is based around my community,” Church added. “Some of the work is from students in my mentorship program. It helps me build people. Besides that, I like giving people this opportunity. Having this at the same time and at the same place over the last 14 years, it’s created its own sense of community. I can’t imagine not doing it. I can’t break tradition. I could see making the shower safer (this year because of COVID-19), but I couldn’t bring myself to cancel it. Even if it’s a smaller show, we still wanted to do it.”

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But why ‘the legacy show’?

At age 49, Church’s place in the photographic community is secure. But the name of the show represents his lifestyle, his values, his core beliefs.

“It’s not just about my own legacy,” said Church, a former photographer for a variety of men’s magazines. “Photography in general is a creation for things you want to have a clear memory of. Those are things that are going to outlive you. I feel like life is a mad race to the end, and I’m trying to get in as much as I can. If you spend your life thinking about how people are going to remember you, you tend to live a much better life. I’m doing stuff now that I wanted to do when I first started out.

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“I think the question is: ‘Why doesn’t everybody feel that way?’” continued Church. “This is just what I’m supposed to be doing. Everything I do is about the way I see things and the specific beauty I see in front of me. There’s nothing better than giving someone a different set of eyes. I’m addicted to that feeling. This is just the showpiece, the crowning jewel. It’s a good thing to do.”

If art imitates life, then photography reflects the beauty of reality. And truth is stranger than fiction.

“Last year, we had 800 people in the door during the show’s five hours, and a lot of people stuck around for a while,” said Church. “People are there just enjoying themselves. It’s for people who love this kind of art. There’s work there that you’re not going to find anywhere else. This is a very serious collaboration of photography. Photography tends to be overlooked in the fine art world. This is my attempt to say that this art form is just as important as any other type of self-expression.

“I believe any form of self-expression should be considered an art form,” Church continued. “You’re expressing yourself in a different way than you normally express yourself. That’s art. Sometimes it’s not about beauty. Sometimes art is about challenging us or shocking us or telling a story. Self-expression is paramount. It’s very therapeutic and it can help everyone.”

Church is also very much committed to Lebanon, the community. Being community-oriented and community-minded is just another piece of who Scott Church is as a person.

“I’m not going to say something like this can’t happen here in the future,” said Church. “I’ve had a great working relationship with Mulberry Art Studios. Could I move the show to Lebanon? Yes, and not lose a lot. I want to see the gallery in Lancaster succeed and I’d hate to take it away from it. It does add legitimacy to it to do it in a gallery in Lancaster. My goal for Lebanon is to surpass that. When Lebanon is ready to have this show, Lebanon will have this show, or something similar. I want to see my town succeed.”

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And that may just be Scott Church’s greatest legacy.

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