I first met Jon while working with him in Kansas City. Jon is a great guy (even if he IS a Mizzou fan…), and I learned a lot about social media and online editorial outreach during the projects we collaborated on. But beyond working together, Jon would periodically bring photographs up to the design area or post them to Facebook, and I would always find myself in love with what he had to share. A couple weeks ago, I posted about the launch of his photoblog, Challenge and Catharsis.
How did you get interested in photography and what made you decide to start Challenge and Catharsis?
I’ve always been interested in photography, dating back to when I was a kid. My dad had — well, still has — an old Canon 35mm SLR and I remember being thrilled on the rare occasion he’d let me use it. But by and large, I was relegated to my Vivitar 110 film camera (which is still floating around my place somewhere…) Over the years, I graduated to disposable cameras, then to point and shoots, but regardless of the tool, I was always snapping pictures of something. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I actually started thinking about photography in a more serious manner, but at the end of the day, this is still just fun for me. People have called me the A-word (artist) and the P-word (photographer), and I always cringe a bit when I hear that. I just consider myself a dude who likes to take pictures! But I’m beyond flattered and humbled at the response they’ve gotten. I’m really happy people seem to like them.
I started Challenge and Catharsis as a way to keep myself honest. As I mentioned in the about section, I discovered that taking pictures gave me a perfect blend of mental stimulation and relaxation, so I wanted to stay in practice and keep my hobby going. That still holds true. But the deeper I dive into this, I’m hoping my blog will help me meet new people (photography enthusiasts and otherwise), learn more about photography and ideally, continue to improve.
Your day job involves working with bloggers at a public relations firm: how do you think this affects how you have approached your own blog?
Working with bloggers is probably the BEST part of my job. It’s been great getting to know many of them and I’ve made some friends along the way. Probably the main thing I’ve been able to carry over is the importance of community. Most of the bloggers I work with are moms, and the strength of their community is awe-inspiring. I’m still a newbie to the online photography community, so I’m just starting to meet people. Though our (I guess I can say “our” now, huh? 🙂 ) community may not be quite as tight-knit as moms’ online community, none of us exist in a vacuum. I think we can all learn from, enjoy and support each other’s work.
In a couple of your posts, you have hinted at nerdy tendencies. What’s your favorite way to geek out?
Oh, I’m a total nerd. Might not pick up on that when you first meet me, but yeah, I’m a geek to the fullest. Honestly, I think most people have a sizable amount of geek in them, but are too afraid to admit it. Let it out! It’s fun being a geek! 🙂 Anyway, I think my favorite way to geek out is probably doing a deep dive into my DVD sets of 80s cartoons (The Real Ghostbusters, He-Man, Inspector Gadget, Count Duckula, etc.) and re-living my childhood one episode at a time. Oh, and of course, heavy doses of sci-fiÂ fantasy and anime flicks are ALWAYS welcome. Encouraged, in fact.
It’s obvious from your work that you love Kansas City: what has been your favorite part of the city to photograph so far?
I love shooting in KC’s jazz nightclubs. I think a lot of my photos tend to be fairly “contrasty” and dark anyway, and you really can’t beat the mood lighting in a place like the Phoenix or the Blue Room. The low light makes it challenging (and most of my shots get deleted at the end of the night), but for those 20 or so I keep, it’s great being able to “feel” the music and the mood through the shot. Plus, it gives me a chance to follow in the footsteps of my photographic hero – Mr. Herman Leonard. He is and will probably always be my favorite photographer, and his work depicting the jazz clubs and icons of yesteryear is simply mesmerizing.
For those of us who love your work, are there any plans to sell your prints?
Absolutely! I’ve got tons more in the vault, so if you ever have any inquiries, please send me a note at jbgray07 [at] gmail.com.
All images © Jon Gray