The Analog Profiles: Jon Moore
Written by Mary Thomas
As I pulled up to the agreed-upon coffee shop in St. John’s, I spotted my appointment across the street with a beard, a flannel, and a Pentax 67. I waited for him to go in first, and watched with a chuckle as he passed the front door and walked to the wrong side of the building, where there was a sign that read “Please use other door”. I did the same thing last week. Classic.
Most people are taller than me, but Jon Moore is much, much taller than me, I realized upon shaking his hand. He was far from intimidating though. His demeanor was warm, light, and just a bit nervous. I had done my research, and so had he, it seemed. This made meeting for the first time a dance of sorts, as we both tried to pretend we didn’t know too much about the other. The awkwardness dissipated quickly with the sips of our coffee; neither of us could stop talking. We skipped right over my list of questions and began philosophizing on our work as photographers.
Jon admitted to being highly critical of himself, but in a positive way. This quality continually challenges his ongoing work . “When I was studying photography in school, people would ask why I made a certain photo, then once I told them, the next question would always be ‘but why?’”
Yes Jon, why?
“I make photos because of my impatience. It’s the fastest way to get my vision out there.”
Jon has a knack for cinematic scenery. I’ve long followed his diverse portfolio of fantastic landscapes, point-and-shoot concerts, and editorial work, but his most recent project, Uncertain Light, is what really caught my eye. Primarily shot on his Pentax 67, the series of photographs uses light and environment to provoke introspection and pose questions I had never before thought to ask.
Starting out on a Canon Rebel 2000 [my first camera too!] that his parents gave him, Jon shot through his first three rolls of film in his teens. He then took them to his local grocery store for processing, as any rookie would, and got all three back blank. As a heartbroken young Jon found out, black and white film doesn’t process in color chemistry. So he began processing in his garage, as he does to this day. “I call it the Shake and Bake. I only use two ingredients: developer and rapid fixer. Oh, and Dawn dish soap to finish.” His stripped-down recipe is unconventional and works for him. Hanging his negatives up to dry in his makeshift darkroom, Jon got his first successful results on film.
Since his first camera, he’s gone through a number of other cameras, formats, and film stocks. He primarily uses color film now, which he processes here at Blue Moon Camera’s lab.
After moving to Portland a few years ago, Jon made a trip to the shop on his second day in town. “Finding Blue Moon Camera made me believe that there was a community here for film. From the small assignments that Jim gives me to just talking with Jake. He, as a business owner, comes and communicates with regular customers and that means a lot.”
Before Portland, Jon lived in Tennessee, where he went to school at Watkins College. He initially went for design, but changed his major to photography his second semester there. “College was a really pivotal point for me. Alec Soth and David Hilliard both gave lectures during my time there, and at that time, I had never heard anyone talk about photography the way that they did.”
“One of the things Alec Soth talked about was titles. He loves daydreaming about titles. This struck me as odd and fascinating and inspired me to think more about presentation. Soth’s series, The Last Days of W, doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with politics, but just his documentation of what the world around him was like. ‘I’m not taking a picture of a person in front of me, but rather the space between us’ was a quote that really resonated with me for a long time.”
Jon, like a lot of artists, gains inspiration from the people around him. “I’m really an extrovert when it comes to hobbies. Not many people know this, but I have to photograph with someone, whether or not they’re the subject. Same goes for developing. That’s the only way I get inspiration. Sometimes when I’m alone I feel like I’m forcing myself.” This sentiment subtly shows itself in the lonely scenes he photographs.
“My latest series, Uncertain Light, is me taking any opportunity to photograph my friends in a bewildered kind of state. I like to experiment with continuous lights to add more of a cinematic atmosphere, as well. Most of the work I’ve photographed has more or less been thought up on the spot, although I do have ideas that will require a lot more work and planning in the future.”