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

History of Nature and Landscape Photography, Transition to Artform

George Shiras and John Hammerin a canoe equipped for jacklighting, Whitefish Lake, Michigan, 1893; © National Geographic Creative Archives

Around the beginning of the 20th Century, significant innovations in camera technology, chemistry, and photographic equipment coalesced at a time when photographers were beginning to recognize the expressive potential of their image-making. An era was fast dawning wherein the photograph would no longer be simply relegated to the realm of science or to cheap novelty, but would instead serve to drive culture, both in and out of art.


Interlude: PFSTL Top Ten, #8. Downtown

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Photo Flood Saint Louis turns four this August.  This post is a continuation of a countdown to commemorate this exciting milestone.

The Downtown neighborhood is every bit the soul of the St. Louis region.  It encapsulates the city’s origins, and includes its best known testaments to culture, business, government, and society.  The world’s first skyscraper, the once longest arch bridge in the world, and the world’s tallest monument live here.  Our relationship to the mighty Mississippi River is embodied here.

With all of that considered, it is no wonder that I began Photo Flood Saint Louis with a visit Downtown, and for the first two anniversaries of the group, we returned there.  These images come from our second venture into the neighborhood; one year after founding.



The Kids Are Alright: Anna Kuperberg and Lewis Hine

Posted in 35mm, art, awareness, black and white, family, film, interview, photography, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on November 22, 2013


Lewis Hine; Newsies at Skeeter’s Branch (They were all smoking), A.M. Monday, May 9, 1910; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, National Child Labor Committee Collection, LC-DIG-nclc-03489

On Black Tuesday, November 28, 1939, the thick gray smoke billowing from the many coal-burning furnaces around St. Louis literally choked out the sun. Noontime on Black Tuesday was described to have looked like just after sunset. Resulting from this, the city passed stricter legislation requiring infrastructure change and the use of cleaner burning fuels, which had the support of residents, who had foresaw something of their possibly catastrophic future in “the day that the sun didn’t shine”. Sometimes it takes a dramatic gesture to stir change… (more…)

Scanning My Days Away, Part 2

Posted in 35mm, art, black and white, film, photography by Jason Gray on August 6, 2012

As mentioned previously, I have been scanning in my darkroom prints to create a consistent digital record of my film work. This is the second update. (more…)

Pieter Hugo

Posted in art, awareness, learning, perception, photography, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on April 30, 2012

Pieter Hugo, Cape Town, 2004 (click pic to go to his website)

Photography’s strength is not in straight, historical documentation. This is because photographic truth is always a distortion of reality. To accept the reality inside a photograph as actual reality is to negate the unique and important relationship between the photographer and the viewer. Pieter Hugo has added, saying, “The power of photography is inherently voyeuristic, but I want that desire to look to be confronted.”` This is an attitude with pedigree; one which many photographers, as opposite as Graciela Iturbide and Ansel Adams, adhered to in some degree, but Hugo pushes the example one step further. In the photographs of his home continent of Africa, Mr. Hugo seems to question the role of his viewers (and himself) in the situations that he photographs, and although his images often seem exotic, it is impossible to avoid experiencing an underlying human connection to the pictures. In an Aperture story“ on the photographer, Bronwyn Law-Viljoen quoted the novelist John Fowles to explain this phenomena: “All human modes of description (photographic, mathematical…) are metaphorical. Even the most precise scientific description of an object or a movement is a tissue of metaphors.”“` Law-Viljoen commenced to add, “Hugo understands that a photographic metaphor, a way of describing something through reference to something else, is created as much by the elements inside the frame of the image itself as by the carefully chosen distance, what I have called the critical zone, from the photographer’s lens to his subject. It is within this zone that Hugo maneuvers through the muddy waters of political engagement, documentary responsibility, and the relationship of these to his own aesthetic.” (more…)

My Best of 2011

Posted in 35mm, art, awareness, black and white, Chicago, film, interview, photography by Jason Gray on January 1, 2012

Here it is, my annual “best of” post. 2011 was notable for me because it represented a refocus on film photography, at first 35mm and then 6 x 4.5cm. Still, my DSLRs did not gather dust either.

Personally speaking, I decided to go back to school (remember, I am self-taught), and this decision encouraged a job change. My eventual goal is to teach. I also created a new interview blog, One Round Jack, which is currently on hiatus until my schedule provides more free time.

In any case, Hours of Idleness has grown by leaps this year, and I welcome all of you new readers. I hope to produce some interesting things to keep you coming back in 2012. Until then, please enjoy the recap (it’s an eclectic mix!).


Miles Mausoleum

Posted in art, black and white, film, photography, winter by Jason Gray on December 24, 2011

As promised several weeks ago, here are some of the shots that I took on a visit to a nearby abandoned mausoleum. All photos were shot with a Bronica ETRSi and 75mm f/2.8 lens on Kodak T-Max 100 film. Images were scanned, which contributed to the funky color-cast, and appear completely unedited (save the watermark). I’ll include some scans from the final prints at a later time.

From Wikipedia:

Stephen Miles, a veteran of the War of 1812, was buried here by his son Stephen W. Miles. The mausoleum is located atop Eagle Cliff midway between Columbia and Valmeyer in what is known variously as Eagle Cliff Cemetery or Miles Cemetery. Due to its size and position on the bluff, the mausoleum is visible from several miles away, and has thus gained a prominent position in local legend. It has been a frequent target for vandals, and as a result all bodies were removed and reburied elsewhere; the fifty-six crypts are now empty and open, and the door to the mausoleum is gone.

More–> (more…)

Lindsey Davidson, Part 2

Posted in 35mm, art, black and white, film, model, photography by Jason Gray on November 25, 2011

As promised, here is the second set of images from my recent shoot with Lindsey Davidson, photographer (and model 😉 ). These were all shot on 35mm film (Kodak T-Max 400) with a Nikon N80 and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D or Nikkor 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G lens. (more…)

Heavy Metal!!

Posted in 35mm, art, black and white, film, perception, photography, zoo by Jason Gray on May 6, 2011

Well, maybe not quite, but I did use copper to tone these. This is a short series (meaning these may be it; let me know what you think) in which I attempted to reduce real birds to 2D “cutouts”. I have been playing with the illusion of the real lately, in my photography, and I think that these are a good example of that.

“In painting, the curve is a hill; in photography, the hill is a curve.” -Arnaud Claass

All Nikon N80 with Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens and Kodak T-Max 3200 BW film.

More after the jump–> (more…)