Jacquelyn Cynkar: Photographer and Philanthropist


Jacquelyn Cynkar is a mother, portrait photographer, and friend of Pittsburgh’s parks. Read more about Jacquelyn’s current photography exhibit, Uncommon Companions, which is featured at the Frick Environmental Center through the end of February and learn more about how she’s connecting her passions for photography and parks for this exciting project!

Tell us about your current exhibit, ‘Uncommon Companions.’
The current exhibit focuses on Pennsylvania insects. I started this project unconsciously at first and then with intent once I realized what I was looking at. The exhibit is a curation of 19 insects from a larger series that I have worked on over the years. Having children and visiting the parks, and embracing the sense of wonder that (children) bring to a situation really helped open my eyes to the fine-tuned details that exist in the park that you often overlook when you’re walking on your own or utilizing it in some other way. When I started to hone in on the insects and began looking at them from a behavioral point of view, and a curiosity of wonderment, like my kids may have done, it allowed me to think of the insects from an individual point of view, rather than collectively.

What does it mean to have your art displayed at the Frick Environmental Center?
As an artist, it’s a privilege to share something that I am passionate about with other people. I also love community—I’m drawn to people naturally. The idea that I can share my art is just wonderful from an engagement point of view and just feeling that connection with others.

For the parks though, I feel privileged in a second way. I can’t say enough wonderful things about what the Conservancy does for our city. To have my show here and feel that sense of community is a wonderful feeling.

I have an endearing and sweet story about the exhibit. The father of a friend of mine sent me a message and he explained that while he was visiting the Environmental Center, there was a family engaged in a conversation, but their child was just staring at my images—to the point where the child started pulling on their mother’s hand and made her stop the conversation. He then observed the child and mother talking about the photo and simply discussing the art. That’s the gift. The parks do that for people daily and for me to be a small part of that is wondrous—I feel so privileged.

How long have you been a friend of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy?
I’ve visited the parks since 2002. I utilize them as a hiker and with my kids as a place of exploration. The kids grew up in the parks and have attended camps at the Frick Environmental Center. We enjoy the activities and programs as a family.

How do you champion for the parks year-round?
As a friend and advocate of the parks, I feel that the parks are a place to break the polarization of people. Being an advocate of the parks is important to me because it’s a place where my children transcend when they step into nature. The parks system is your ‘Vitamin N’ (nature), which we all need. It’s also a gathering place that brings community together and people of different voices, backgrounds, and opinions. It is so needed. I believe in advocating beyond my household and discussing the parks and needs with intent.  

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