Artist Statement


I am an enduring conviction that photojournalism is art. For over a thousand years, artists have depicted events on their canvases; from Yokoyama Taikan’s inspiring Mountain after a Shower, to J.M.W. Turner’s brilliant Snow Storm—Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, many paintings have portrayed more than just static landscapes. Both film and digital cameras can afford the same, despite the latter’s propensity for making clinical reproductions from an immense palette. While this myriad of hues is captivating, it can also be distracting. Accordingly, my work is monochromatic, exploring Renoir’s “queen of all colors.”

I create from two overlapping perspectives that examine the intimate relationship of land and atmosphere. My surface-centric photographs more immediately connect the solid with the ether above. In this view, our impulsive life support system reveals its many faces; a gossamer veil caressing a coastal plain, or a volatile collision of elements upon a mountain summit. In contrast, my sky-centric work reflects on the interplay of sun and cloud from a dozen kilometers above the ground. This imagery only subtly acknowledges the land’s presence so we may revel in our wanderlust and our insatiable longing for a pair of wings.


Although a photograph should represent an artist’s unique vision, it should also be honest. Today, photographic illustrations too easily masquerade as photographs, misleading their viewers. I use previsualization, manual camera techniques, and traditional darkroom processes in lieu of aggressive digital manipulation to create images that have integrity. I never use filters or special effects lenses to alter the appearance of a scene, and I never alter a scene’s content in such a way as to change its meaning.

Aircraft contribute to climate change through their emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, so I choose not to fly for the purpose of making photographs. Rather, I've simply decided to not waste the window seat when I must fly. On the ground, I take daily action to minimize my carbon footprint through low emission commuting, maintaining an energy efficient studio and a plant-based diet, paying a voluntary carbon offset tax, and teaching classes in environmental and atmospheric science.


Jon Van de Grift

Aerial Photography