About the project

Last year, I started what would become an annual tradition: a portrait project focusing on interesting people in the community.

It started with the Central Michigan Model Railroad Club, highlighting the guys working on model train sets in downtown Jackson.

This year, I wanted to focus on local creatives, but with a twist: they had to be from Jackson, and they had to stick around to do art in the community. So here you have true Jacktown locals, doing art and making our community a more interesting place.

I had a few goals. One was that I wanted to meet the people doing art in the community, and find out why they stuck around.

Another is that peoples' interests have always interested me. Why do people pick up a hobby? Why do they stick with a certain career? What do they get out of it? 

And selfishly, I wanted to network with local creators and get their advice on subjects like putting their art up for sale, showcasing work in exhibits, and getting into the artistic community. 

But more than all of that, my goal was to highlight the creative potential of our hometown, and show off the talented people that make stuff in Jackson, Michigan. 

Nuts and Bolts

I contacted each person, described my project, and asked them to participate.

Each person sat down with me for a quick interview, and then I watched them work on a creative project. 

After that, we did some formal portrait making. I asked them about their influences and artistic background, what they value about Jackson's artistic community, and the challenges they face in getting their work out in the world. 

challenges For Me

Contacting 15 people over the course of the summer, scheduling interviews, and picking portrait setups on the spot were big challenges. It forced me to get good at sight reading (for my musical friends) a photo session on the spot.

Though maybe my biggest challenge was sitting down with 15 mostly strangers to talk. About anything. That experience alone helped me to get out of my comfort zone, and really listen to people's stories. 

I'm probably right on the border of introversion, so it's usually uncomfortable for me to sit down with someone new and have a deep, serious conversation -- no matter the subject. 

I know that kind of thing is good for me. 

 

Common Themes

A few themes emerged. Many of the artists described Jackson's art scene as supportive. Many also felt there was a growing sense of potential in town. And several were realistic about practical things like making a living, or earning much money at all, from artistic endeavors in Jackson -- sometimes finding it necessary to go outside Jackson to get recognition at all. 

All of the artists mention Jackson as a good place to live. Many show their art at big city expos, or do a lot of traveling, to get a taste of life outside the county. 

Over and over again, I heard about the collaborative nature of the artistic community. Artists in Jackson are willing to help each other, and learn from each other. Maybe it's a Midwest thing, or a small town thing, but it was good to hear that there aren't sharks in the water (as Jake said) in our hometown.

Future Projects

For next year's project, I'd like to focus on local musicians. If you want to nominate someone for a portrait, please let me know.

I'm also always up for making portraits with people just for fun. If you'd like to do that, let's get together and make some pictures. Or I'm available for hire for engagement sessions, professional head shots, and senior portraits.

Dave Lawrence
photographer

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About Dave

Photo by Tiffany Marie

Born and raised in Jackson, creative professional at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and hobbyist photographer -- that's me. My family lives in Horton, Michigan, just south of Jackson, and we're regulars around town.

Each year, I try to tackle a portrait project. I also enjoy photographing the rural landscapes on my drive to and from work, as well as abandoned buildings and small towns around Michigan. 

You can find me on Flickr, Instagram, and my photo blog on Tumblr


Support This Project

You can support Artists In Jackson in a few ways.

Buy the book! It's the culmination of the entire project, beautifully-bound in 102 pages of full-color portraits and stories. You can also purchase prints of the photos.

And hey - support the actual artists featured, and other local artists. Buy their prints and pieces, and support their creative work! 

You can also support organizations like Arts & Cultural Alliance of Jackson County, Jackson School of the Arts, the Ella Sharp Museum, and any non-profit group that helps local artists.