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Picture perfect

Travel photographer finds community of peers at Riderwood

Created date

January 4th, 2018
Photographer Lew Priven captured this unique image of camels’ shadows reflected on the sand in Morocco.

Photographer Lew Priven captured this unique image of camels’ shadows reflected on the sand in Morocco.


Lew Priven has always been interested in photography, and now that he’s retired from his career in electrical engineering and software development, he’s able to focus even more on taking photos. 

He was first turned onto photography in the 1970s and took some classes at Bard College. He was interested in birds, so he started by taking photos of birds and scenery. 

“We moved to Washington in 1974, and in the house we bought, I had a dedicated room for myself for photography,” Lew says. “Back then, it was not digital; we used chemicals [to develop photos].”

Over the years, Lew and his wife Judy traveled extensively, which provided fantastic opportunities to capture unique photos. They visited Spain, England, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Israel, among other places. One of his favorite spots to snap photos was Morocco, where he was fascinated by the old cities and the sand dunes in the dessert. 

Lew and Judy also took a trip to Uganda, where they volunteered to care for children with AIDS. 

“I took pictures every day, so I have quite a collection from Uganda, which is a whole different culture,” Lew says.

More recently, Lew has traveled to the Florida Everglades, where he took photos in wildlife preserves and spotted large birds such as waterfowl. He also took a trip to Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada. 

“From there, we went to Grand Manan Island, off the coast of New Brunswick, and we went to another island where they had a puffin rookery,” Lew says. “I had always wanted to see a puffin.”

Best of both worlds

In 2014, Lew and Judy moved from Chevy Chase, Md., to Riderwood. Judy had developed an illness that needed a higher level of care. 

“I wanted to find a place where I could have a life and she could get good care,” Lew says.

Judy now lives at Arbor Ridge, Riderwood’s continuing care community. Lew lives in an independent living apartment home on campus, and it’s convenient for him to frequently visit his wife because she is just a short walk away. 

At Riderwood, Lew has found a vibrant community of artists, including many other photographers. He is a member of the photography club, a group of about 20 residents of various skill levels, who take different types of photos. 

Each meeting begins with a sort of “show-and-tell” session, where members share and discuss their photos. Then, a club member or an outside photographer delivers a “how-to” presentation about a technical aspect of photography, such as composition, using a dark room, or how to use a new kind of camera. 

“It’s good to get some feedback from people,” Lew says. “I’ve learned a lot looking at other people’s stuff.”

Built-in audience

Living at Riderwood has also given Lew the opportunity to share his photos with a large audience—something he’d never really done in the past. 

The community hosts seasonal art shows, where residents and staff display their paintings, sculptures, photos, and other types of artwork. Lew has shown slideshows of his photos as part of a resident travelogue series. And recently, three art gallery spaces were set up on campus, where rotating juried exhibits of art created by residents and staff are displayed for the whole community to enjoy. Six of Lew’s photos have been on display in Riderwood’s juried exhibits.  

“When we moved to Riderwood, I was able to become more active in photography,” Lew says. “I was able to really pursue it more because I have more time now.”

In addition to pursuing his photography, Lew is a member of Riderwood’s bird-watching club. He is also active in the resident Jewish community and currently serves as the group’s treasurer. He organizes a Sunday afternoon entertainment series with a focus on Jewish themes. Sometimes he shows a DVD, and other times he brings in live musical entertainers, including Jewish singers Robyn Helzner and Frieda Enoch. 

“We’ve had a couple hundred people come out on Sunday afternoon,” Lew says. “It’s very rewarding—I enjoy watching people enjoy themselves.”

Lew is also a member of Riderwood’s Yiddish club, which meets twice a month to practice speaking and writing the language. Some of the members speak Yiddish, while others grew up hearing it but never spoke it fluently. 

“My objective of moving to Riderwood was accomplished,” Lew says. “I am very busy.”