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Photography has been a part of Los Alamos police detective Shari Mills’ life for as long as she can remember.
Her father, Winfred Headdy, was a professional photographer at Los Alamos National Laboratory for more than 30 years. He not only shot classified photos for LANL, she said, but outside of work he snapped portrait photographs, documented marriages and took countless photos of her growing up.
Mills recalled being her father’s “little model.”
“I became very used to saying ‘cheese’ for the camera while he adjusted the studio lighting before his photo shoots,” she said.
Mills’ father spent many years working for photographer and Los Alamos Living Treasure Dan Elliott. Elliott, well known for taking aerial views of Los Alamos, the Valle Grande and surrounding mesas, owned a photography store on Central Avenue. For 30 years he photographed Los Alamos High School graduates as they received their diplomas.
One of the first photos Mills remembers taking was for her sixth grade science fair. Her father helped her build a pinhole camera, which she used to take the photo.
“My dad also let me keep an eye on his photographs soaking in developing solution in his darkroom in our garage when I was young. This helped me learn perfect contrast and a sharp sense of balance,” Mills said. “In the process, I also discovered a whimsical talent for making people smile.”
Times have changed considerably since the days of film and anyone with a digital camera and photography software can become a photographer, which creates a lot of competition, she said.
Mills recently launched Shari Mills Photography and explained that what sets her work apart is that she incorporates a balance between the methods of yesterday and today.
“Using both my camera and computer allows me to make every photograph a special reflection of an individual, family or group that can be cherished for a lifetime. The technology of today allows me to be creative with my photos and add that special ‘pop’ or illusion of ‘is that real’ to a photograph,” Mills said. “Also, I use a Wacom drawing tablet to add artistic touches to my photos. It’s a flat board that plugs into the computer and I draw on it as if I was using a pencil and paper on the computer.”
Mills has worked for the LAPD since 2002. Her photography experience helps in her police work when she photographs crime scenes.
“I utilize PhotoShop to enhance standard photos and photos taken with video cameras,” she said.
Mills’ photos occasionally appear in the Monitor and her work has been recognized with a number of awards including the “People’s Choice Award” at the New Mexico State Fair in 2006.
She also received two Grand Champion ribbons for photos she entered in the Los Alamos County Fair and Rodeo competition.
A number of her photographs are currently on display at De Colores Restaurant on the main hill road and she is preparing for a three-month exhibit in Trinidad, Colo., beginning in March.
Mills was born and raised in Los Alamos. She has two children including Paige Early, also a Los Alamos police officer and Nathan Anderson, a computer software specialist in Austin, Texas. She also has three granddaughters, Maddy, Beth and Sarah.
Mills’ photographs can be seen on her Web site at www.sharimillsphotography.com.