“The real value of an image is the emotion it invokes in the viewer; a catalyst for one to feel nature rather than just being a passive bystander. When someone views my work and the first word out of their mouth is ‘Wow,’ then I know I have succeeded,” explained Walt Thirion, of his breath-taking photography.

Walt and partner, Marjorie Casse, put their talents and love of this area on display at their new gallery at 238 West Center St. in Kanab. Opening in August of this year, the couple and their artwork will certainly be community assets.

But their journey to Kanab has not been a predictable one.

While Walt got started early in photography, doing black and white darkroom work at 12 years old and as his high school yearbook photographer, he ended up in the high tech world. After serving in the Marine Corps, he earned a B.S in Physics at Kent State University, followed by work towards a Ph.D. at the University of Texas in Austin. Before completing the program, his mom was diagnosed with cancer and Walt left the program for a job in the computer field to help with her medical bills. “That was in 1982, and I never looked back!” said Thirion.

In life outside of work, he married and raised his two sons. In 1999, after a relatively successful career as a serial entrepreneur, Thirion focused on private investing and mentoring start-ups. Having more free time enabled Thirion to pursue his lifelong love of nature and photography. When he met Marjorie in 2009, they started spending more time volunteering and exploring the local area.

Marjorie has a deep love of the Grand Canyon and Kanab area and has worked as a seasonal ranger at Toroweap and preventative search and rescue at the North Rim. Now she works as a guide with Dreamland Safari Tours. “I can’t ask for a better job!” she says. “I love guiding people as they discover the natural beauty of the local area.”

Thirion said his love of landscape photography was born out of his early childhood in northeast Ohio. “My dad worked as a heavy equipment operator in construction, which meant he could only work when the weather was good. We couldn’t take vacations because he couldn’t miss work in the summer and money was too tight in the winter when work was shut down because of weather. But we were lucky enough to have a lake nearby so we camped all summer and dad could drive to work from there. Our camper was too small for all of us, so my brother and I would sleep outside. I loved exploring and feeling part of the natural environment.”

The couple has the combination of talents that work! He loves the bigger picture, and she loves the details. The collaboration from two talented people show in the offerings at the gallery. “The details are important and I like to showcase the fine structures people often miss,” said Casse.

“We’re into nature and use the gallery to share our love with others,” explained Thirion. “Many people can’t get to the remote areas we love. With our work, we want people to feel as if they were transported to these areas and are experiencing the emotion for themselves.”

But this partnership is different from anyone else who might want to capitalize on our surroundings – they aren’t entirely focused on making a buck. “The scenery and people here are fantastic,” said Thirion. “Our goal is to have a place where people can hang out, be open and talk about issues.”

Towards that end, Marjorie plans on serving healthy snacks such as freshly made juices and organic foods. “We want everything to be homemade and healthy,” said Casse. “People need that.”

Walt and Marjorie have always actively supported various charities and philanthropic efforts and are continuing this tradition by donating the majority of their profits to environmental conservation efforts. “These donations help ensure the lands and waters on which all life depends will be preserved,” said Thirion. “We are so in love with this area and we want to help in any way we can.”