Islander’s photos capture the beauty of coastal nature
You might not know Barbara Rabek, but if you’ve ever been to Galveston, you probably know her work.
Rabek, who has lived in Galveston since 1980, retired from teaching in 2008 and slowly developed a passion for nature photography, she said.
Her work now adorns some of Galveston’s most established institutions — Jennie Sealy Hospital at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Ball High School, to name a few.
People are drawn to Rabek’s photography because of their own personal experiences with the objects she has photographed, she said.
“I think it’s like telling a story,” Rabek said. “You’re making a connection to the emotions and feelings of what you see every day. I’m constantly looking at something and the details of it. I’m trying to capture what you see around you. People don’t always stop to look around them.”
A photograph of an overview of Galveston conjures memories and associations viewers have with the island and its history, Rabek said.
“I think it’s about capturing something you don’t want to forget,” Rabek said. “They’re like image diaries. I’m recording something for myself. Then I can go back and share with people. I can look at all my pictures and usually tell you where I was and who I was with.”
Such memories and associations led Rabek to photography, she said.
After her retirement from teaching, she took a course in a master naturalist program and began volunteering for various nature-related groups.
“I was always more interested in nature and being outside,” Rabek said. “That prompted me to be involved in a lot of nature activities. It kind of snowballed from there.”
When duty called, Rabek began photographing the different groups’ proceedings, she said.
The next thing she knew, she was photographing area wildlife refuges with friends and going on photography trips throughout Texas, including to the Hill Country and The Valley, she said.
“I’ve gradually improved over time,” Rabek said. “I’m kind of embarrassed by my first pictures. Just hanging out with other photographers helped a lot. I used to go out and take hundreds of photos of things. Now, I’m a little more selective, making sure the light is right.”
In the process, Rabek became a mainstay at area art festivals and her work has been displayed at island gallery Affaire d’Art, she said.
Rabek has enjoyed every moment on the island, but her time in Galveston is nearing its end, she said.
Soon, she and her husband will move to the Smoky Mountains area to be near her family, she said.
“We’re excited about moving, but it’s also bittersweet,” Rabek said. “We’ve made a lot of friends here and participated in a lot of activities. It’s difficult to leave.”
Although Rabek will be leaving behind the waterfront vistas and seabirds that have played her muse all these years, she doesn’t expect her photography career to be anywhere near finished.
“It’s in my blood now,” Rabek said. “We’ll be right next to one of the most visited parks in the U.S.”