by Cathleen Terhune Alty, RDH
It is said that a picture speaks a thousand words. Although a single one of Michele Gorden's beautiful, award-winning photographs speaks volumes about what she loves and values in life, perhaps a thousand-word biography about her background is a better introduction. A love for her family, photography, and dental hygiene is Michele's passion, which is clearly seen in her subject matter.
Michele graduated with a certificate in dental hygiene from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio in 1986. After the RDH certificate, she continued to study for her bachelor's degree in health-care administration and took a hygiene job in Zurich, Switzerland, for a year and a half.
"I was 23, single, and having the time of my life. The work was hard, but so was the play!" she said.
The beauty of Switzerland caught her eye, and she began to take pictures to remember her days of living there. She soon traveled the world — Africa, Greece, Egypt, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Holland, Denmark, England, and Ireland — and photographed her travel memories.
"I came home with six big photo albums and many great memories," she said. "All the photos help me remember every moment and are fun to escape to when I look at them. I encouraged about 10 other Texas hygienists to go work there also. It usually took about five minutes to convince them to go!"
After returning to Texas from her world travels in 1993, she taught on the faculty at UT Dental Hygiene and got her master's degree in adult education. She currently works full-time in the Dental Faculty Practice.
Besides dental hygiene practice, dental offices have also become a gallery for Michele's work. "I display some of my favorite photos at my dental office and get many compliments on them. My patients kept telling me I was a very good photographer. I am still humbled by the compliment. I would not have known otherwise, because I never studied photography."
This encouragement helped her decide to donate a few pictures for a fundraising auction at her children's school and for the local public television auction. Michele admits, "I did it as cheap marketing research to see if anyone would even buy my photos. They did very well and raised money for a good cause. I now do about six charities a year and have fun meeting new people, and I learn about fundraising in the process. I joke that I don't need to be rich and famous, but I would like to go to a few good parties and galas!" Michele finds new doors of opportunity open each time she exhibits her work and shares her passion for photography.
Michele sells her photographs in local frame businesses and has them on display in an orthodontist's office and a new restaurant. Her photographs have won several awards at the Texas Dental Meeting photo contest. In 2003, she won first and third place from roughly 85 photos. One of her goals is to publish a coffee table book of her favorite photographs.
An introduction to Michele would be incomplete without meeting her family as well, because taking family photos is her favorite subject.
"After searching the world, I met my husband, Robert, and married 10 years ago," she said. They have two beautiful daughters and live on five acres in Bulverde in the hill country of Texas with 17 chickens and two cats. She also likes to scrapbook and sew.
"We love living in the country, and it gives me a good opportunity to take many photos of God's beautiful land. I never studied photography or art, but took to it naturally."
An eye for beauty apparently runs in the family, as her 8-year-old, Ashley, is a natural already. Shelby, at 5 years old, is also a ham for the camera.
Michele adds, "I never even had a camera until I was 19 and went to Europe for the first time on a college trip."Now she captures life's precious moments to preserve forever. Michele's favorite part of her photography is to bring places, events, animals, and emotions to others who might never get to experience such wonderful blessings in life.
Cathleen Terhune Alty, RDH, is a frequent contributor. She is based in Clarkston, Mich.