Wishing Queen Terri a very Happy Birthday with all my love!!!
Happy 20th photography anniversary to me!
This is a major milestone for me. One that so many people like me are never able to fully realize. This is the exact reason it’s so special to me, simply because I know how extremely difficult it is to achieve. I’m deeply thankful for this amazing blessing! It absolutely would NOT be possible without the love and support of my immediate family, and I MUST acknowledge them for all they do for me.
Starting out I never thought that this journey would ever come this far. All the doubt, practice, failing, struggles, rejection, negativity, money, hard work…yet, here I stand. I’m just as excited now as I was the first time I picked up a camera and decided to document my life. It’s been a long, hard, road but, I’m still going strong. I still find the motivation to get up and do it everyday because, I honestly just love it so much!
I get so much joy and fulfillment out of freezing all of the interesting moments I encounter. Persevering all of the memories I create in my life, and in the life of others. After all, life is all about experiences, and being able to document each one is a beautiful responsibility. It is sincerely an honor and a privilege. Even at this stage of my career, I’m still a proud student of the game. Still learning and growing everyday. Still willing to do the work even when there’s no reward. It’s truly not about the destination for me, but rather the journey.
My goals now are the same as they’ve always been…to have fun, and to build a collection of work that I can be satisfied with. Work that my family and I could be proud of. I am my own harshest critic, but I finally feel that I’m on the right track to accomplish everything I set out to do. As long as I’m able, I will continue to believe in and challenge myself to pursue all of my dreams!
I hope that my influence can serve as a positive example to my children and to all the artists that come after me. You can do what you love, and you can love what you do! I’m living proof. I was just a kid from a really rough city trying to do something that most people felt I couldn’t do or didn’t care about. Look at how many people worldwide that are trying to do the same things as me now. If it’s important to you, you can make it your reality. Never give up on yourself! Let love lead your intentions and never forget the element of enjoyment. You’ll be fine too 😉
Peace & Blessings.
Goodbye old friend. It’s terribly painful to see you go away. I will always miss you.
The old friend that I’m referring to? My hometown’s local drive-in movie theater, the legendary Hilltop.
I can’t begin to express to you how many of my favorite childhood memories are deeply connected to this place.
My first experience was going with my parents as a baby in the mid 70’s. Next, watching it evolve as a child throughout the 80’s. Eventually growing up and taking my own family in the 90’s. Sadly watching it struggle to stay open and relevant in the early 2000’s. Witnessing a small resurgence under new ownership, before ultimately seeing it go out of business for good. The rapid growth in popularity of digital media as well as mismanagement helped to seal it’s doomed fate.
Seeing those doors closed and watching the property deteriorate over time broke my heart even back then. Now seeing it completely destroyed by misfortune breaks my heart in a seriously more profound way. Now I know it’s truly over.
The city I grew up in wasn’t always nice. The family I grew up in wasn’t always happy. But, some of my most positive memories of fun and joy are directly tied into this location. This where my love of the movie going experience began. It’s also a bridge to my personal memories of a period in time long forgotten. A place where people would socially gather outdoors to enjoy a movie. It might be very difficult for modern people to fully understand how eventful this activity truly was without having been there during that specific time. We didn’t have a lot of money and we couldn’t really travel, so the drive-in represented the type of excitement a child would feel when visting their favorite amusement park. The drive-in was literally like my Disneyland.
Just preparing to go was an event all unto itself. Looking through the newspaper to find out what was playing? And at what time? Getting dressed in the appropriate clothing based on the current season. The long drive there. Well, what I thought was the long drive there, since everything seems more grand when you’re a child.
I can remember everything about this place in vivid detail!
From the swings, slide, and merry-go-round that sat right underneath the screen for the children. Hell, even the mosquitoes! The strong smell of OFF bug repellent in the air. To the way the light from the projector would shine across the night sky with the stars sparkling in the distance. Each and every time was exciting for me. From getting there early sometimes to beat the traffic. To playing with random children before the sun set, letting you know it was time to head back to your car. To showing up at night while the lights from the marquee would glow, illuminating the surrounding pavement. The display of bold red letters, arranged by hand, describing what’s “Now Showing”.
The long line of cars with their headlights shining, waiting to pull up to the brightly lit ticket booth. The friendly individual happily greeting you while handing you your tickets. Driving around until you find the perfect spot. Or maybe being too late and having to park further away from the screen towards the back. Rolling down the window, hanging the speaker inside. Followed by turning on the radio, trying to tune the dial to find the right station for a clear audio signal. Watching the intermission cartoons sing and dance, instructing you to be courteous to the others, while also recommending which snacks to purchase. To one of my favorite moments of all, walking to the concessions building.
Our drive-in had a large concessions building, much bigger than the average stand. When I was a child the building itself was painted bright orange and white. During operating hours the front and back doors would be wide open. The light from inside would pour out onto the gravel. People would be maneuvering in and out, balancing a variety of snacks in their hands. And the best part, the overwhelming smell of hot, freshly popped, buttered popcorn!
I’m an old-school movie goer and a diehard movie theater popcorn lover. I’ve been to tons of theaters, carnivals, fairs, plus popped my own corn at home for years. But, nothing can compare to the way the popcorn smelled at the Hilltop! It stands out as one the most instantly identifiable memories of my entire experience there.
The smell grabbed you instantly! It grew stronger as you moved closer to the inside, making you hungrier with every step. And although there was plenty of other wonderful food being prepared, the popcorn was the star attraction. The aroma was truly undeniable.
The inside was a child’s paradise! The assortment of candies neatly lined up behind the glass counter. All of a child’s favorite junk food items being prepared right before your eyes. The cheesy Tombstone pizzas. The flavorful ice cream sandwiches. The delicious nachos. The iconic Chicago style hot dogs. The old style lemonade & fruit punch fountains, with the colorful liquid dancing around inside the glass containers. Oh, and some of the absolute best hamburgers I’ve ever had!
I even loved just wandering around on the inside. The food, the games, the people, the decor. All of it made me happy to be there. Getting somewhat of a behind the scenes look at the huge projectors transporting our movies outdoors through a beam of light. I thought it was both fascinating and magical!
Over time watching the mostly mechanical 1970’s pinball machines evolve into the 1980’s electronic video arcade games. Seeing the large crowd of people gathered around the new technology of Space Invaders, then Pac-Man & Donkey Kong. I can’t count how much money I wasted in those machines, but it was worth every penny!
Running into both friends and family randomly was always another exciting surprise. Living in a small town means you’re more than likely to run into someone you know quite frequently. Especially in those places where large crowds gather seeking to enjoy themselves.
Honestly, walking back to your car with your food was even an adventure. Trying to find your way in the dark while not spilling or dropping anything…classic.
Let me just reminisce a little deeper for a moment…
I’m thinking about how we’d always go no matter what. Despite all of the completely different Midwestern weather conditions. The heat. Being rained out. The cold winds. It didn’t really matter. We always seemed to have a good time, even when the movies were no good. Sometimes we’d sit on the hood of the car, or my Dad would park in reverse so we could sit on the trunk. Taking blankets and pillows for extra comfort. Meeting new, friendly, people. For instance, very often someone with a truck would allow us to sit in the back of the flatbed, providing another playful viewing position. Even my earliest memories of being a small child and sitting on the roof of my Father’s car. Can you imagine how much fun that was?
We use to bring our own foldable chairs to sit outside, and sometimes we brought our own cooler. We even barbecued many times on site before and during the movie. You can’t do that inside a regular theater!
I mean, where else could you have the choice to see two brand new movies, two awful horror movies, or two goofy B-movies for the price of one? It was seriously a better value when directly compared to my other love, the standard sit-in movie theater. Not to mention the freedom and privacy it provided you with. It was great! And it was definitely an extra special treat to go on a random school night!
Being able to go back to school and tell your friends all about what you saw. Especially if it was R-rated or nudity involved! Or sometimes simply falling asleep in the backseat before the movie ended. Only to wake up with just enough time to ask, “what’d I miss?”
It was always bitter sweet staring out the window as the credits rolled. Slowly drifting along as my parents tried to beat the traffic to the exit. Not wanting it to be over, but looking forward to the next trip.
Then becoming a young man, driving your own car, going on dates. The many make out sessions with any young lady you were trying to impress at the moment. Finally, maturing and taking your own children in hopes that they’d have an appreciation for your nostalgia. Being able to bond over this retro form of entertainment in a modern setting. Man, what an awesome experience!!!
In light of our recent COVID crisis, there has been an unlikely rebirth of drive-in movie theaters worldwide. A whole new audience is now being introduced to their parents or grandparents “old fashioned” way of viewing films. For this very reason, I had high hopes that the Hilltop would somehow be revived. For years I would tell anyone who would listen that the Hilltop is and should be a historic landmark for our city! It should never be disregarded or torn down! Now the worst has happened…Weakened by years of neglect and abuse, this seemingly indestructible brick construction is abruptly destroyed by a powerful summer storm?! I’m stunned!!!
For the official news report click the link below:
Selfishly, I never wanted this special place to go away. Specifically in such a disgraceful fashion. I often hoped that someone with the money and the proper vision would see the value in renovating the property for the future. I thought that maybe some local saviour would come along, willing to invest into the community, but it never materialized. Such a shame because, I always looked forward to riding by to catch a glance, or stopping by to take a few pictures whenever I would visit. It was always one of the highlights of my trip. Even when it was strangely converted into a makeshift soccer field. Even throughout the years when it was abandoned and vandalized. I hated seeing it that way, but I could always count on physically seeing the buildings and taking a moment to reminisce.
I don’t know what the owner of the property or the city is planning to do with the land? Maybe they’ll rebuild it? Although I highly doubt it. Maybe they’ll clear it all out? Effectively erasing the entire history of this once thriving landscape. No matter what they choose to do, I know that whenever I visit my only option will be to recollect on what use to be. Even if they totally rebuild the site exactly the way it once was, I’ll always know that the original, this important symbol of my childhood, is now gone forever!
So, goodbye my dear friend! Thank you for the countless thrills, excitement, and memories. I will forever reflect upon you with happiness and great fondness. I will continue to tell your story, and I will absolutely never forget you! You will forever represent a much simpler time in my life, as well as the world in general. You were quirky. You were unique. You were romantic. You were the best!
Truly thankful to God for all of his many blessings.
I know that times are extremely hard for everyone, especially financially. As someone who makes their living working as a photographer, I too have been challenged with finding alternative ways to earn income during this crisis. With that being said, for anyone who’s ever been interested in owning a beautiful copy of my work for their home or office, I’m happy to announce the launch of my first print store. Now you can choose from a variety of my work and purchase prints to be delivered right to your door. There are various sizes and framing options available. New photos which span my 20 year career will be added to my gallery regularly.
To check it out please visit me here: https://robertnjones.darkroom.tech
Wishing Queen Terri a very special and Happy Birthday today!!! I Love You!!!
Happy Anniversary To Me
With each passing year it becomes even more unbelievable to think about how my journey in photography all started. Every year I fall deeper in love with the art form. My appreciation for the opportunity to engage in it daily grows substantially. Being allowed to continuously learn, practice, experiment, and ultimately grow is one of the greatest experiences in my life! I’m thankful for continuous blessing.
Discovery & Saying Goodbye
On September 9th, just a few short weeks ago, the photographic community lost not one but, two of the world’s most captivating artists. Just moments after learning that legendary photographer Robert Frank had passed away I, like most others, dedicated a post on my social media accounts to express my condolences as well as appreciation. Immediately after I hit send I read a message from a fellow photographer saying that legendary Canadian photographer Fred Herzog had also passed away. It was such an unbelievable coincidence that I had to google it just to make sure that the information was accurate. Unfortunately, it was very true.
I discovered Robert Frank’s work many years ago when I felt lost as an artist, looking for a new direction for my own work. Robert Frank’s book, The Americans, is the gold standard for street and documentary photographers worldwide since it’s release in 1958-59. After viewing just a few of the photos online I knew I had to purchase the book for my personal collection. I now own a copy of The Americans, along with a few of Mr. Frank’s other books, so I fully understand the gravity of losing an artist of his magnitude. One of the lessons I learned from his work is, to be honest in the images I capture. Take photos that tell the truth regardless if it’s good or bad. Photography is not always pretty because the world is not always pretty. Stay true to yourself, your vision, and take photographs from your own heart.
I discovered Fred Herzog’s work because, I’ve always been a huge fan of all the Kodachrome film photographers. Being mostly a color photographer myself I’ve always admired the uniquely beautiful color palette that the mythical Kodachrome film was able to produce. I was always on the look out for the early adapters of color photography, so Herzog’s work struck me immediately with it’s distinctive painterly beauty. I’ve also been fascinated with the natural beauty of Canada’s landscape since I was a small child. The marriage of Mr. Herzog’s photographic style, with the charm of the 50’s Canadian street aesthetic appealed to me heavily. The way Fred routinely captured the city of Vancouver for decades was beyond inspiring. He quickly became one of my absolute favorite photographers solely based on his documentation of the Vancouver streets. I own a few of his books as well and they are some of my most prized possessions. I look to them as a constant source of inspiration and motivation.
So what is inspiration to me?
Inspiration is impossible to quantify because, it’s influence is felt long after the source is gone. Therefore, it is immeasurable and everlasting. I’d like to thank these 2 men for their endless inspiration.
Although Gordon Parks is my single greatest inspiration, I will never deny the influence that so many other great artists, such as these 2 men, have had in my pursuit of my own photographic expression. I am truly grateful for their example.
Happy Birthday to my younger brother Marcus. I hope you enjoy yourself and have lots of fun. I wish I was back home to help celebrate with you. Cheers! I love you man!!!
“There’s gon’ be some stuff you gon’ see
that’s gon’ make it hard to smile in the future.
But through whatever you see,
through all the rain and the pain,
you gotta keep your sense of humor.
You gotta be able to smile through all this bullshit”.
– Tupac Shakur
In honor of my youngest brother’s birthday today I wanted to share a photo we created back in March. This was one of the first photos I took with my brand new Leica M10P. Thanks to my brother Antonio for helping me out with the session, and I’d like to wish him a very Happy Birthday!!!
Happy 18th birthday to my son Nas. I love you Jr.!!!!
18 years ago I picked up a camera to document the growth of my first born child, and I have never looked back. I’m thankful to God that I’m able to do something that I love so very much!!!
I was fortunate enough to have you both until I was 42 years old
You helped raise me, and love me, may God bless your beautiful soul
Although I’m sad, I can’t be mad I suppose, because one was a jewel 💎 and the other was a rose🌹
I’ll always love you both forever! Your son, Robert ❤
Black & white photos taken a few months ago while out and about.
Some color & black and white street shots from Old Town 2017.
According To Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary A Jewel Is Defined As:
Here is a short poem I wrote in memory and honor of my wonderful grandmother, Emma Jewel X Orsborn.
Sunrise: May 18, 1928 Sunset: January 6, 2018.
“They say no one is perfect, you’re the exception to the rule
Because, God crafted perfection when he created this Jewel.”
As a photographer light is the most important element to creating images. Through photography I’ve gained a better understanding of light, and the importance of light. Light is something that we all need, the critical source for our very sight, but also a power that we all take for granted. We’re usually unconcerned with how much we appreciate having light, until it is taken away from us. We’re also unconcerned with how difficult our daily tasks would be without it, until we have to try and function without it. Such is the case with the following example.
It seems that whenever it rains near my house the power goes out. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if it’s a heavy or light rain. I’m not sure what the technical issues are for this particular area or house? But never the less, it’s still a pain to deal with regularly! Power outages are never convenient, but they’re especially inconvenient when you’re right in the middle of preparing dinner! I was preparing dinner for my daughter and I when suddenly all of the power went out. Thankfully the food was almost done, and the oven retained enough heat to finish cooking even without the power. This was the second power outage we’ve experienced in less than 3 weeks time. In fairness, these outages tend to only last a few hours at worst, but on a hot summer night, or a cold winter night they can be brutal. The images that I’d like to share are of my daughter as she tries to enjoy her dinner despite the darkness.
These unedited photos were intended to capture some of the frustration of dealing with a lack of light while doing something important. All of the photos were lit by the flashlight from my iPhone, as well as a single candle that I found. The light that I provided my daughter was not included as a way to expose the photographs, but rather to assist her in finishing dinner. The idea of photographing her was a complete afterthought.
(Please click on each photo for larger view)
My princess of color series was created to depict a more realistic and identifiable image of princesses to young women of color. The idea is to show girls of color that royalty looks just like them, as opposed to the traditional notion that we’ve been conditioned to accept throughout history. The series is meant to convey the message that you are beautiful and important just the way you are, so be proud of the skin that you’re in. Having a daughter myself, my goal is to get more people involved and have more representations from children of all different cultural backgrounds.
This first set of images feature Princess Madison.
(Please click on each image to enlarge)
A beautiful sunrise I was fortunate enough to capture, handheld, while out walking one morning last month.
Last month I reached an important milestone in my life. I just wanted to take some time to show myself some love and also share this moment. If you know me at all, then you know I gotta keep it real, so if that offends you please move along…
Despite the lack of support from my own family, friends, and former associates, I continue to carry on. Despite the lack of respect or credit as an influencer from the local photographic community, who by the way, will sing my praises privately, then try to disrespect me or ignore my contributions publicly, I continue to carry on. Don’t worry though, I know EXACTLY what I’ve brought to the game for the past 10 years in the city in which I live, whether they’ll ever recognize me for it or not! I’m also very aware of my influence back in my hometown for the 7 previous years as well. No I’m not on anybody’s “team” or a member of anyone’s “crew”. I don’t party or hang out, but it shouldn’t matter, because I’m an individual. I don’t die to fit in, I live to stand out! Please don’t get me wrong, I’m open to collaborations if creatively they capture my attention, or if they’re beneficial to my growth. But in the end I stand strong alone!
People often ask me for advice, but I think one of the greatest lessons you can learn from me has nothing to do with a camera at all. If there is anything you can take away from me, I’d say it’s my perseverance. Do what you love because YOU truly love it, not strictly for fame, money, or attention and you will always be successful. I do what I do for myself, but I choose to share it with the world. If you like it, great. If you don’t, that’s fine too. If you’re creative and passionate, then never let anyone stop you from doing what’s true to YOUR heart! If people don’t support you, or understand your dreams and goals, it’ll be disappointing, but don’t give up! Take satisfaction in knowing that you’re doing something for YOU. Understand that it might feel as if no one cares at times, but someone out there is watching. There are people who “get” what you’re doing. It might not always be those that you were expecting. The unfortunate reality is, the people closest to us can’t always see the greatness in us! Often times they won’t support us until people from the outside start to. Eventually they’ll come around when others start to recognize your ability. It’s sad, but true.
With that out of the way, from the bottom of my heart I want to thank each and every person that has EVER shown me any love throughout any stage of my career. I will NEVER STOP creating!!! If you riding with me, stick around cuz it’s only going to get better!
Peace and love to all the positive individuals everywhere! To all the creatives, keep your fire burning and your light shining bright! Support REAL artist y’all!!! ♥️
Here’s a few portraits of my friend Jerry that were taken during the worst part of the tropical storm Irma. He is homeless, yet he told me, “Not to stress out over life’s issues”. “As long as you’re alive and healthy, you have a reason to smile and be happy”.
The destruction caused by Hurricane Irma was far reaching, extending into parts of Georgia in the form of a tropical storm. Although the damage was far less than expected in the Columbus city area, strong winds toppled large tress, and power lines. The winds also scattered debris across the city’s streets causing some roads to be blocked off. There was also some minor flooding, power outages, as well as school and work closings. On the worst day of the storm I spent most of my time out walking the streets trying to document the damage. Below are a few samples of just some of the things that I saw.
(Please click on each image for larger view)
Just thought I’d share a random urban landscape taken in downtown Columbus.
For years I’ve awakened to the soft neon glow of this particular alarm clock.
This photo gives you a personal, yet very misleading look into my life. It says a lot about my daily sleeping habits. You see, some days this is when I wake up, while on other days this is when I go to sleep. There are many causes for such a sporadic pattern of sleep, mostly work, which I’m certain other creative individuals can absolutely relate to.
Having an active mind full of ideas can keep you up all night, cause you to wake up early in the morning, or disrupt you at any moment in between. It’s this same creative surge that can fuel your passion, while also draining your spirit. Being an artist of any kind is never easy. It can be a constant battle within yourself to outwardly express what you see and feel inside. Creativity can cause you to become a habitual dreamer incapable of manifesting ideas into reality, living totally inside your own mind. Or it can cause you insomnia from constantly trying to artistically execute your thoughts in your physical life. This never ending traffic of mind games is mentally exhausting! If you’re like me, and have been battling your entire life, you already know that eventually it will catch up to you physically.
This is where I currently stand. Growing older and finding it increasingly difficult to find ways to win these internal battles. To find a steady balance. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being an artist! I love being someone who can see things that others cannot. I love having the ability to create something out of nothing. Or being able to take something that exists and provide a unique re-interpetation from my own perspective. I truly believe it is a gift from God. I just wish that this gift didn’t have to come with burden of this curse wrapped around it.