About a year and a half ago, I had a crazy idea for a portrait project: Gather up some of the talented artists in my hometown of Jackson, Michigan, take their portrait, and share their story.
It took time, and thinking, and a bit of bravery, but last June I started to reach out to local artists and introduce myself. For many of them, it must have been weird to get an email from a random guy saying he wanted to take their picture.
Remarkably, I received very few “no thanks” replies. There were a few artists who couldn’t make the time, or life circumstances got in the way, but overwhelmingly everyone I talked to was up for it – if a little confused about what the project was about.
So one by one, person by person, I built a subject list. I started with people I knew (thanks Cassandra!), introduced myself at local art festivals, and got in touch with art collectives in the area. I discovered artists and their art.
That’s how I built Artists In Jackson.
It was a long game. I knew it was going to take months, and it ended up taking me well into the fall to photograph everyone. Then I had to transcribe the interviews, edit the photos, write the profiles, and design the book. It was a lot of work. And this was after having a brand new baby!
But here I am, one year after the launch, and everything fell into place. My first show at Sandhill Crane Vineyards was a big success (above), and we had another group show at Art 634. Two shows, two months – two opportunities to show off my project and the talented artists. Maybe even help out the artistic economy in town.
I’m super grateful for all the support I’ve received from my community. I feel like the hard work I put in has been worth it, that I’m getting these artists out in front of people, and that big, ambitious projects like this are important.
Artists In Jackson has helped me think differently about my photography. I’ve learned that photography can be a great way to meet new people, and to give back to the community.
And as a “maker” of stuff, it’s been so rewarding to make the photos, write the stories, and produce the book. It all tickles that “joy” part of my brain: I made something that people purchase and read and hang on their walls.
It’s super satisfying.
Last March I had an idea: what if the artistic community in Jackson got together and threw a big social media party – an advocacy and awareness campaign to promote arts and culture around the county. That idea came to fruition, and today is the day, thanks to my colleagues at the Arts and Cultural Alliance.
Happy Arts In Jackson Day, everyone.