Arts / Galleries

Fire Hydrants That Tell a Story With a Real Feeling — An Artist From The Woodlands Finds the Pefect Unconventional Canvas

Plugs with Personality - See Them in The Woodlands and Round Top

BY // 03.13.24

Eight years, 183 hydrants and 3,850 miles have gone into the series “The Hydrants” — the work of Woodlands area artist Jennifer Vahlbruch. And she’s not stopping there.

The Hydrants” is a series of photographs showing human emotions as depicted by fire hydrants as found and photographed by Vahlbruch. She began her photography work in her native Germany, and continued after her move to the United States in 2016.

“We lived in Bavaria, near the mountains — that was the first thing I did,”  Valbruch tells PaperCity The Woodlands. “Also, big panoramic pictures. And I had some exhibitions there.”

A self-taught artist, Valbruch has also done food photography.

“I did some restaurants and cafes and commercial photography as well,” she notes.   “And I’m doing this here as well.”

In 2016, as Vahlbruch was driving through Miami on vacation, she saw a fire hydrant that caught her eye. She took a photo, and then “I forgot about it,” she says.

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The first hydrant that Vahlbruch photographed - "In Between," which is in Miami.
The first hydrant that Vahlbruch photographed – “In Between,” which is in Miami.

But when Vahlbruch revisited the photo, she realized there was something about it. “We are all living between love and death,”  she says and the hydrant illustrated that to her. “We are all individuals. Different. Yet connected and equal through commonalities or the essence of our existence.”

Each hydrant is special and unique, and has its own unique story. “It reminds me that we are all the same, but different,” Vahlbruch says. And a series was born.

What’s next for The Hydrants?

“We want to get to t0 Colorado,” Vahlbruch says. “We want to do road trips with our travel trailer so the story will expand.

To Vahlbruch, “The Hydrants” series allows people to express feelings through her art. She has created a series of  her photo images on cards available to use to allow people working with life coaches, or in therapy to express themselves visually.

“You have cards, and the people can can say how to how they feel with my hydrants,” Vahlbruch says. “So they can say, ‘OK, I’m right here. And I want to be the magician or the wizard.’ She works with them to explain how they feel, and where they want to get.”

"The Wizard", photographed in Waco. Each photo in the series is taken "as is" with no manipulation by Vahlbruch.
“The Wizard”, photographed in Waco. Each photo in the series is taken “as is” with no manipulation by Vahlbruch.

Vahlbruch recognizes the healing power of art.

“Art can help people  with feeling better or getting better,” she says. “We already talked with the Fire Department. Because it’s easier for people to point at picture. They don’t have to put their feelings in words. They just have to point to it.”

“The Hydrants” series is currently featured at Ardest Gallery in The Woodlands and will be at the Farm & Factory Interiors booth during the Spring Round Top Antiques + Design Show at The Compound from this Saturday, March 16 through March 30.

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