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

History of Nature and Landscape Photography, The Beginnings

Sir Henry Fox Talbot; early 1840’s


Photography has had a preoccupation with nature almost from the very beginning. In fact, it was probably a preoccupation with nature that led to photography in the first place. The Pencil of Nature was a photobook published in the mid-1840’s by Sir Henry Fox Talbot, who was the first to successfully develop a reproducible negative.



The Photography Experience

Posted in art, awareness, Jason Gray by Jason Gray on May 8, 2015


As mentioned previously, my last trip to Hawaii left me considering our relationship to our cameras and the images they make. A tour of Honolulu made me broadly aware of the spectrum of motivation behind our image-making; does a photograph make a document, and if so, is the document of the subject in front of the camera or the one behind it?


Photography and the Merits of Change

Posted in art, awareness, black and white, film, learning, perception, photography, technique, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on March 9, 2013

pepper1930Edward Weston; Pepper, 1930.

Recently, I had a student ask me about whether or not beauty (ie. aesthetics) influences my decision-making about the pictures I choose to take. Certainly, I consider composition in my work, but my idea of beauty may be different than the student’s, yours or other photographers’, furthermore, it is not always my prime consideration. How can this be? (more…)

Nikki S. Lee

Posted in 35mm, art, film, model, perception, photography, technique by Jason Gray on October 29, 2012

Nikki S. Lee’s work, The Hispanic Project (25), depicts a woman of somewhat ambiguous decent, definitely East Asian, possibly also Hispanic, sitting on a step outside, in an urban setting. She appears to gaze off beyond the camera; is she unaware of the photographer? The date stamp on the image suggests that the person responsible for it is likely using a consumer-grade film camera, a “point-and-shoot”. Maybe the photographer, probably an amateur, snapped this while on vacation, or else the photographer could be this woman’s friend/boyfriend. In 1998, before digital cameras became popular, film cameras were ubiquitous among almost all classes of people in the United States. This picture may even have resulted from a disposable camera, sold almost everywhere, at the time. The woman in the image wears a necklace with the word “Genie” taking the place of a traditional pendant. It is probable that this is her name, although it might also represent a lover, a friend, or even her mother. It could even commemorate any of these. The woman appears to have a rose tattooed upon her left breast. It’s impossible to know the personal iconography of the rose to this woman, but given her tough exterior, it would be reasonable to suspect that she might appreciate something beautiful and dangerous, a flower with thorns. This might even be the context she assumes for herself; a context derived from upbringing or/and necessity. (more…)

A Context for Art History

Posted in art by Jason Gray on December 15, 2009

We are all no more or no less than the sum of each of our histories. Our potential in this life is never greater than our ability to understand the past, and in art it is no different. What each generation of artists accomplishes is a veritable link to those artists’ work who came beforehand, whether immediately or 10,000 years ago. Too much of art today is about rebelling against the establishment (or the supposed act thereof); artists no longer embrace their predecessors, they are no longer the culmination of a discipline with a lineage of disciples. Therefore, art stands still, it is stagnant. With every artist searching merely for their own individuality within the media, the greater ideals of the profession are unfortunately lost into the abyss.

Nevertheless, my goal for this article is not just to comment on what I regard sometimes to be the twilight of a fading empire; rather, I hope to espouse somewhat on the connections between artists, who were beyond consigning themselves to being mere individualists. These are artists who sought linkage to the ghosts on the tip of their brushes or the fossils embedded in their heavy slabs of clay, and in doing so, pushed their own medium to its limits. Whether the artist is Michelangelo, pursuing the Greek ideals of form and content, or Pollock, conjuring the essence of Native American sand painting, and combining that with an esoteric wisdom of surrealism and the cubist grid, or finally, whether the artist is the purveyor of modern art himself, Picasso, whose new vision was locked in the firmest embrace with the history of art (both western and primitive), the conclusion will be the same, to trace the significance of understanding the past, while also culminating it into a unique future vision.

Barnett Newman once said, (more…)