Once when we were in high school the local alternative weekly ran a story on a short-lived record label that Jared and I had just founded. Jared sent a self portrait. Taken head on, it showed a Pentax K1000 obscuring his face, pointing directly into a mirror. He sent one for me too: a friend wearing huge glasses and headphones. After the article was published we were told that the publication didn't like the photos because they didn’t reflect the subjects. They were wrong, of course. The photos were perfect — what more accurately captures teenage boys then hidden faces?
With time, things started to get less obscure. It became apparent that Jared’s interest in photography was not fleeting — I remember shoebox after shoebox of photos under his bed at his parent’s place (he worked at a lab for awhile), and walls covered entirely with them in our Toronto apartment. Most important, in 2004 he started crossbonesstyle.com, the simple, unpretentious photo blog he’s been keeping for 5 years. It’s often a lot easier to start things than to keep doing them, and Jared has been taking photos more or less all the time for at least a decade.
These photos were taken with film, usually the cheap kind. Although he now uses a Leica, many of the ones here were taken with a Pentax K1000, a camera known more for being hard to break than for taking good photographs (an article I just looked up on it says it was “already obsolete when it was first released.”) Film costs money, and these cameras are not automatic: the work you see here is deliberate, and has a precision that is entirely absent from the snapshot photography that’s littering a generation’s worth of hard drives.
A lot of these photos were taken in and around the town in which we grew up. It’s economy was based around a car plant, and it had one high school. It was a place of coffee shops, grey skies, potato farmers and zero ambition. Or at least, that’s how it often seemed to me. Jared was able to see it for what it really is though, an actual place, not the cliché I just described. At a time when it seems like many young photographers are striving to get to New York or Paris or L.A. to start taking pictures of their friends smoking cigarettes, Jared is looking out his back door.
After looking through Crystal Clear Eyes, it’s not surprising to find out that one of Jared’s heros is William Eggleston, a man credited with defining artistic colour photography. They say a colour photograph is more democratic than it’s black and white counterpart: for better or worse, everything counts. The black and white photo of your Dad in a suit represents a certain thing, sure, but the colour one that shows the awful pattern of the tie he’s wearing — what it really looked like. And that, it seems to me, is what a lot of photography is about: capturing small scenes, and showing you what they really looked like.
Jared’s work asks you not to consider a greyscale silhouette perched backlit in a windowsill, but rather the pastel plaster, cracked rust, and million other images that pass us by every day. By refusing to idealize, his work reminds us that we remember things not because they are beautiful, but because they were there. “The sadness of colour” is a phrase he has used, apt because you feel like you’re seeing an image that was once — briefly — special, and now long forgotten. This work is an exercise in bringing those images back, of preserving in our memories what has always been in front of us.
- Shane Sinnott