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Brought into Existence, Magically Local Artist Jonah Allen’s Ocean Photography b y D e n i s e K . J a m e s
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quite often. But the fail- ure and disappointment motivate me to work harder and make incredi- ble images.” Interestingly, he tends to avoid scrolling through other photogra- pher’s feeds on Instagram, in an effort to preserve his own muse. “I try not to look at too many photographers
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I t took a few years for Jonah Allen to realize his artistic calling. His first love, music, was fostered by his parents, who generously took Jonah to concerts and encouraged his passion for playing instruments. Then, in high school he picked up a different kind of instrument—his first camera, and, in his words, he “hasn’t put one down since.” “My first camera was a basic underwater camera,” he says. “It wasn’t great, but it was one of the first cameras you could take underwater. I’m a surfer, and I fell in love with photographing the ocean.” In college, Allen began taking his love for photography more seriously. As a student at the University of Georgia, he majored in marketing, with double minors in art and music business. Deep down, Allen knew his dream was to be a creative entrepreneur. “When people think of an artist, they think of ultimate freedom,” he says. “And yes, there is freedom, and I’m thankful to align my passion with making a living. But what most people don’t know is that art is a fight. It takes a mindset of persistence, passion, and patience.” Scouting the perfect photograph is a delicate balance of atmospheric conditions and being in the right place at the right time. Allen says each image requires three key qualities: intriguing subject matter, a moment that cannot be duplicated, and the ability to elicit emotion in a viewer.
“A picture could be thought of as latent, or even nonexistent—it has to be brought into existence, almost magically,” he says. “A photograph must be made from a precise point: something that I see, that only occurs in one spot, in one particular moment.” His work encompasses three types of images: aerial photos of the ocean; photos of the sand’s patterns against the shoreline; and photos of breaking waves in the water. He uses a variety of tools, including a chartered helicopter when necessary. “The inspiration comes from a number of sources, but the greatest two are the relationship between water and light, and the relationship between humans and landscape,” he says. “I do what I can to get the right perspective. Sometimes, I wait for two months for the right conditions to align. That’s what makes these images special—they can never happen again. As soon as conditions present themselves, they are gone in the blink of an eye.” Allen specializes in large format photography, so the viewer feels like they are looking at the ocean and becomes spiritually submerged within the image. While he values film — and will still occasionally use film for fun—he feels digital photography is more forgiving. “I treat my process with intensity, determination, and consistency,” he says. “Most of the images I make will never be printed or shared. This is because I fail
Artist Jonah Allen
on Instagram because I don’t want my creative eye dilut- ed,” he says. “I do look at a lot of painting and sculpture. And there are photographers who have inspired me over the years—Edward Burtynsky, a Canadian, is a huge in- fluence. Also, Ansel Adams and Clyde Butcher.” While his work is presented at a few galleries across the South—New Orleans and Naples, FL, among others—Allen values the opportunity to connect directly with patrons in person and on his website. He feels that the digital age has brought more flexibility to all creatives, giving them the power to share a message with a broader fanbase. “At the end of the day, there are two things that are important to me. Art is about conveying emotion. So, if my work can allow someone to feel a certain way, I’ve done my job,” he says. “But, on a deeper level, you can’t get people to care about things unless they experience them firsthand. If my images can inspire someone to go out to the ocean and feel it, they might just care about the future of it.”
Learn more about Jonah Allen’s fine art at www. jonahallen.com.
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