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

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.


My Best of 2021

1. St. Louis Riverfront, from Mound City Chronicle

You wouldn’t know it from this blog (considering that this is my first post of the year), but 2021 was an opportunity for me to stretch my wings a bit and expand horizons for my work. For much of the last ten years, I’ve been primarily focused on assisting other artists in St. Louis, whether that was through Photo Flood Saint Louis, curating, teaching or mentoring. The effect of this was that I had lost sight of promoting myself and my work as an artist–to the degree that it had been more than ten years since my last solo exhibition. This year, all of that changed.


First Impressions: Vallerret Ipsoot Photography Gloves

Posted in Adventure, Jason Gray, links, photography, Review, St. Louis, Travel, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on November 26, 2020

Vallerret Ipsoot Photography Gloves

I was recently sent a pair of Ipsoot Photography Gloves by Vallerret, and asked to share my thoughts. This is the Norway-based company that is the winter weather best friend to cold hands everywhere. Things have been a little unseasonably warm here in St. Louis, so my more in-depth review will come later. However, I wanted to take a quick moment to give my first impressions.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park (with kids), Part 1

In our modern world, there are precious few places that entertain and enrich the psyche in a way that satisfies wholly, despite whatever wild expectations or seeming familiarity one may have. Places static, though still offering continually different experiences. Places wild, mysterious, and at times, magical.  Places that achieve everything already described, even though they are among the most loved and most visited of their kind. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of those places, and I’ll soon share how best to enjoy it with kiddos in tow.


Fujinon 16mm f/2.8 WR Lens

Lenses, like cameras, are purchased for a variety of reasons:

1. There are lenses out there that are impeccable, that deliver maximum image quality (loads of sharpness, great contrast, minimum distortion and excellent color reproduction) and are lightning fast (generally f/2.8 is considered fast, though with primes sometimes f/1.8 is considered sluggish), but those lenses tend to come with a few caveats also: they are heavy and expensive.  These lenses are specialists’ tools; their purpose is to be the best in the game for the pros that need them.

2. There are lenses that are the optical equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife, they cut, they saw, they open cans, but they’re often clunky and inefficient when compared to tools dedicated to those tasks.  They are your 18-400’s of the world.  These zoom lenses are generalists’ tools; their purpose is utility and convenience for the enthusiast.

3. There are lenses that you form an emotional attachment to.  These lenses can be zooms or primes, slow or fast, cheap or expensive, but they are always at your side.  These lenses are the ones you pick up when you are going out to take pictures for the day when there is no pressure on you for what you’ll bring back.  They make photography fun. They get out of your way, and let you think about composition and subject.  These lenses are seldom the first ones photographers buy. In fact, they almost always come into the bag after years of shooting, when you realize finally that what is truly missing from your kit isn’t its ability to cover fisheye to super telephoto or to be able to pixel peep every shot at 100%.

This Fujinon 16mm is the third category of lenses for me. Yes, there is a bigger, technically better IQ and more expensive 16mm by Fuji, but the portability and still excellent image quality of this guy makes him really sing.


Virginia Sublime Part 2

Posted in Adventure, art, beer, family, Fuji, Hike, Jason Gray, links, Park, photography, prime lens, prime lenses, Travel, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on July 21, 2019

Virginia is a state where the Nation’s history unfolds, but it is also a place of great natural beauty and strong, local community. It is home to saltwater sunrises, cool mountain mists, and almost everything in-between.

If you read Virginia Sublime Part 1, then you already know how this survey of the State is structured, but just in case, this is a report back from my family of four’s recent trip to Virginia (and nearby). The State has essentially five distinct regions, of which I have now visited three. In the last article, I covered the Valley and Ridge Region and the Piedmont, while this post will focus on the Coastal Plain/Tidewater Region.


Virginia Sublime Part 1

Virginia may be for lovers, but it is also easy to love. The State possesses an incredible diversity of landscape (from the Atlantic Coast, to tidal marshes, historic towns, rolling mountains, mighty rivers, and busy cities), and even a great diversity of people (ranked 14th overall in the U.S. for 2019, whereas my home state of Missouri comes in at 37th). Its proximity to other interesting places is also good, being essentially centrally positioned along the east coast of the U.S.

My family has now had the chance to visit Virginia twice, though we’ve seen much of the State on those trips. Consider this post part travelog and part recommendation, though it only truly scratches the surface on all there is to do there (perhaps I’ll expand it in the future as we return to explore other sites). Nonetheless, I’m quite confidant that you could plan a stellar trip using the info contained herein, after all, we already did!