Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

My Best of 2020

Posted in Adventure, art, Arts Writing, awareness, Fuji, Hike, photography, prime lens, prime lenses, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on December 20, 2020

1. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

It feels insane to type it, but 2020 was in some ways a more stable year (personally) than those of recent memory, despite the overshadowing of a global pandemic and extreme political uncertainty.

2. Afro World, Photo Flood Saint Louis


3. St. Augustine Church, for St. Louis Magazine


4. Quarantine


5. Curecanti National Recreation Area

Gone this year was all of the anxiety of business ownership, frantic freelance scouting, and frenzied job searching. My job at the Museum is great, and even though my workload has increased dramatically due to  Covid-19 (most programs at my workplace have transitioned to digital, which require many more permissions), I feel very fortunate and thankful for the work.

My wife’s job, on the other hand, did not resume after the initial shutdown, and she remains unemployed.  This, of course, presents its own challenges, though nothing akin to those we’ve faced in years prior. 

6. McKinley Heights, Photo Flood Saint Louis


7. Missouri Botanical Gardens


8. Bangert Island, St. Charles

The year began with an article for St. Louis Magazine by my friend and collaborator, Chris Naffziger, that ran on my 40th birthday and featured some of my work on the Lemp Brewery. Shortly after, Chris announced a lecture that he would be giving at the Missouri History Museum, that would also feature my Lemp work. Chris was apparently very busy this month, and wrote another two articles for St. Louis Magazine with my work.

In February, Cinco De Mayo on Cherokee Street posted images on their site by Photo Flood Saint Louis that were made during our media partnership in 2019. Also this month, I was invited out to photograph the interior of the historic St. Augustine Church ahead of its planned renovation. These photos made it into another St. Louis Magazine article by Naffziger. Shortly before the end of February, one of my photos of the band Nublvckcity appeared in an installation (see below) at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport in Kansas City.  

By any account, 2020 up until this point was shaping up to be a most auspicious year for me. 

9. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


10. Art in Bloom, Saint Louis Art Museum


11. Quarantine


12. Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area

Going back a few years now, March has been a bumpy month for me. This year, I threw my back out pretty severely (a re-aggravated injury) on Friday, March 13th, after my son asked whether I could pick up my wife (not a difficult task) and I asked her to jump into my arms. I’ve been battling the pain ever since. Just four days later, on Tuesday the 17th, my employer  shutdown for both the public and staff. This was the beginning of an adventure in remote working that still continues, wherein I’ve completed two book projects (a third is in progress) and innumerable image requests, both to and on behalf of the Museum.    

13. North Pointe, Photo Flood Saint Louis


14. Johnson Shut-Ins State Park


15. Quarantine (a venture into macro photography)

16. Quarantine


17. Carondelet Park Under Quarantine

Following the city’s shutdown, Photo Flood Saint Louis announced a suspension of activity in order to comply with the ordinances in place. After nearly eight years of activity with rain or shine events, this was the first time that my organization has been idle for any prolonged period, and I was a bit concerned about whether or not members would lose their focus. During the shutdown, members actually stepped up with fun intra-group activities and we were even able to conduct one official event (from the safety of everyone’s home). Once the stay-at-home orders were lifted, we slowly resumed operation, albeit with strict Covid-19 rules in effect. In August, we celebrated our eighth anniversary with a virtual event, and are back on track to finishing our goal of photographing all 79 St. Louis City neighborhoods before our ninth anniversary celebration.    

18. Campsite at Curecanti National Recreation Area


19. St. Augustine Church, St. Louis Magazine


20. Diamond Cabaret Under Quarantine, Riverfront Times


21. Benton Park West, Photo Flood Saint Louis

In the first week of quarantine, I began a series of life at home. The set began as black and white (first time in years that I have thought to shoot this way), and in many ways offered so much room for experimentation, that I don’t normally allow myself with my photography. Friend and fellow photographer, Jeannie Liautaud, interviewed me about my life under quarantine for part two in her project series, “Stay at Home” Thoughts.   

22. Quarantine


23. Quarantine


24. Quarantine

In the early days of quarantine (after my back had recovered a bit), I dove into completing a few construction projects around the house, including a new garden bed and deck.

In April, I decided to revisit and re-conceptualize KAMP as an expression of my love and appreciation for the outdoors- this time, with no pressure of commercialization. I designed a new website and launched with an interview with “Big Muddy” Mike Clark of Big Muddy Adventures. The site features outdoor photography, equipment reviews, and notes on adventures near and far.

25. Mark Twain


26. Academy


27. Quarantine

In June, my photography of Diamond Cabaret, a gentlemen’s club in Sauget, was featured in an article about the impact of Covid on local businesses. Later that month, my Mound City Chronicle project was highlighted online by the Cecille R. Hunt Gallery at Webster University, where I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts in Photography.

In July, my wife launched her yoga business, YogaCult, which I created the logo, photography and website for.

28. Quarantine


29. Franz Park, Photo Flood Saint Louis


30. Diamond Cabaret, Riverfront Times


31. Curecanti National Recreation Area (reproduced in promo for city of Montrose, CO)


32. Washington State Park

In September, I received my physical copy of Brewery History (Spring 2018), a London-based publication that featured my photography in an article written by Chris Naffziger.

Later in September, the Gray Family decided to make its annual vacation a socially distanced camping trip to some of the lesser frequented National Parks in Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Curecanti National Recreation Area, and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. We camped most of the time we were gone, and recorded some truly epic memories.  

33. UFO Viewing Platform, Colorado


34. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


35. Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve


36. Walnut Park East


2 Responses

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  1. Chris Naffziger said, on December 21, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    Better late than never on the Brewing History journal copy! Thanks again for the amazing photos!

  2. Jason Gray said, on December 21, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    Thank you for the opportunity!!

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