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

What is Photography?

Posted in 35mm, art, Arts Writing, awareness, film, Jason Gray, learning, perception, photography, technique, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on April 8, 2023
Quick edit integrating an AI-generated image of an “obelisk of mysterious origin” into a photo that I shot in the Ozarks.

With the recent deluge of AI image generators upon the market, and the continued expansion of AI assisted image capture/processing, there has been a lot of understandable discussion about what impact these new technologies will have on photography itself. These discussions range from “AI will destroy photography” and “AI image compositors cannot call themselves photographers” to a general excitement or curiosity (tinged, perhaps, with a bit of reservation). What is generally missing in these discussions is a clear definition of what is or is not photography, a benchmark with metrics for many that would appear to vary as widely as positions on image generation by artificial intelligence.


Are You Wasting Your Money?

My opinion: probably.

When I decided to switch camera brands from Nikon to Fujifilm, the decision was predicated on a variety of factors, with cost being high among them. It was clear to me, after more than a decade with the brand, that Nikon’s system (and Canon’s, and Sony’s) is structured to push you to spend more money (not just for features that you want–but features that you NEED). Any new camera under $2000 from any of the “big three” manufacturers will be crippled for professional use in either autofocus performance, resolution, lens support, or interface, while the significantly more expensive options tout features that are well beyond the needs of the vast majority of professional photographers. Aside from some elite photojournalists, wildlife photographers or professional sports photographers, no one needs the performance that these astronomically expensive systems provide (and many of those don’t either).


Fuji X-T1

When I originally bought into the Fuji system back in 2018, I elected to go with the X-E3 and X-T20, which have been excellent cameras and have supported the wide variety of work that I do. However, in choosing to go with those camera bodies, there were a few compromises–with weather sealing being one. A couple of years later, as my family planned our first trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, I became plagued with the fear of sand-logged cameras leading to an inability to work. My solution was to pick up an older, used (and weather sealed) camera body to supplement my gear on excursions such as this. Enter the Fuji X-T1.


Mound City Chronicle Book

Posted in Adventure, art, Fuji, Jason Gray, learning, nikon, perception, photography, prime lens, St. Louis, technique by Jason Gray on January 16, 2023

In late Fall of 2022, my first monographic photobook was published through Vedere Press in Indianapolis. Mound City Chronicle, a current exhibition series and the subject of my book, has been both a labor of love and a voyage of discovery for me since I moved back to St. Louis in 2009. The idea of publishing the work as a book goes back to at least 2014 when I produced a handmade variant using tipped in prints, though the publication process began in earnest back in 2018.


Does a parasite know that it’s a parasite?

All works in series are untitled.

One of photography’s inherit and unique properties is its ability to harness the duality of believability and obfuscation. This alone makes it unique among the arts, which are otherwise only capable of presentation (versus representation). Even a painter that works directly from a subject in front of them creates a product that is understood as an interpretation–an amalgamation of paint, canvas and the artist’s technical ability. We see these things first, before we are able to relate ourselves and to “experience” the subject. In photography, however, the viewer almost always accepts what they see first because the photograph is a recording of something in front of the camera and because photographs, for more than a century, have been both the currency and language of history. That said, a photograph has at least as much potential to lie to the viewer as any of the plastic arts. When the photographer frames, they carve away from reality and begin to manipulate what they see for their own aims. These are not light decisions and they form the basis for this body of my work.

Though all of the images in this series are “straight” photographs, many of them play with the viewer’s understanding of what they see. A photograph of a seemingly serene scene may in fact have been photographed on the edge of a toxic waste dump, a photograph of something that looks like a perversion of nature may in fact be an image of mitigation efforts meant to protect or preserve it, etc. The viewer is encouraged to explore each image individually and interpret for themselves what impact they see.


My Best of 2022

1. Historic River Des Peres Sewer Tunnel, from Mound City Chronicle (for Terrain Magazine)

Despite taking a lot of photographs in 2022, very little photography was dedicated to my several ongoing projects (though significant that little bit was). This is due to several intervening factors: 1. my focus on exhibiting has picked up steam; 2. my focus on publishing a photobook has become realized; 3. I had wonderful assistance with my photo organization; and 4. it was hot as heck for a lot of the year.


What’s in my Camera Bag, 2022?

photo by Harper Gray (my oldest son)

It has been a while since I have shared a true, “what’s in my camera bag?”-style peek into the gear that I use on a regular basis. I am going to take the opportunity to really deep dive into what I pack in my primary kit, my everyday carry, and for travel or street photography. I will also summarize my thoughts on Fuji, after three years of using this system as my primary choice.


Mound City Chronicle

STL250 Celebration, from the roof of Saint Louis Art Museum, 2014.

Since moving back to St. Louis (my birthplace) in 2009, my creative focus has been the city itself. I photographed to reorient myself with a place I’d lost familiarity with in an effort to find myself somewhere within it. Over time, this exploration matured into a cohesive body of work that is a testament to this search, but also a chronicle of the forces of change that are ever present in St. Louis–a process exuded by human inhabitants of the region for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

With this process in mind, of emergence and evanescence, Mound City Chronicle was born.


Fuji GFX 100s

The museum where I work may be updating the camera equipment in its photo studio, so Fujifilm USA sent me a GFX 100s and three lenses (GF 24mm f/4, GF 45-100mm f/4, and GF 120mm f/4 Macro) to test out for a week. I’ve been shooting Fuji’s X series for several years now, and I consider it a very competent, versatile system. However, there is “capable” and there is “CAPABLE”. This camera fits easily into the latter, as you will soon see.


My Go-To Equipment in 2021

Posted in 35mm, Fuji, Jason Gray, learning, photography, prime lens, prime lenses, What's in My Camera Bag? by Jason Gray on December 6, 2021

Screen Shot 2021-12-02 at 5.24.29 PM

Three years ago, I started sharing a version of the lens and camera stats that I collect every year to observe how I am using or not using my equipment. These public posts are based on the images from my “Best Of” posts, which tend to be a great microcosm for how I use equipment on the whole.