By NYJAH BUNN
Capital News Service
LANSING — Jeff Gaydash had been shooting all day. It was getting dark and he was tired.
He’d packed up all his gear and was walking back to his car when he saw a tree in the sand.
He almost kept going, said Gaydash, the featured photographer at the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Michigan Great Lakes exhibit. But he pulled out all his equipment and took some shots.
One of them turned into “Lost Horizon,” one of Gaydash’s favorite photos of the exhibit.
Gaydash grew up in Detroit and often visited the Great Lakes. One of his earliest photography memories was attempting to replicate Great Lakes photos from a picture book he had as a child, he said.
Whenever he went somewhere like a lighthouse, he wanted to stand in the exact same spot shown in the pictures in that book.
“That didn’t resonate with me too much,” he said.
He then decided to take pictures of the Great Lakes using a technique and style that he likes.
He attributes his love for black-and-white photography to the separation from photography that the medium creates. Black-and-white is less straightforward and offers a different approach than photorealistic color images.
Gaydash turned his passion for black-and-white images into a business. He owns the Jeff Gaydash studio, a custom printing studio in Detroit that specializes in black-and-white prints.
Inspiration for the photos now at the museum came from his previous industrial images of Detroit when he was focusing on shorelines, factories, the Rouge River and downtown Detroit, Gaydash said.
He set a goal of creating one great image that he was happy with each month. That way, he’d have at least 12 images in a year, he said. He was drawn to using long exposures, to create a feeling of time passing in an image.
Photography is about capturing a moment in time, he said.
That technique keeps a camera lens open for an extended time. Anything stationary like rocks, trees, a bridge or a pier remains sharp and in focus, while moving pieces become smoothed and blurred.
Gaydash used the technique to juxtapose natural with artificial elements. His goal was to expose the powerful effects of weather.
“Lost Horizon” is a perfect example. It’s an image of a bridge and its surroundings.
The bridge and rocks, constructed and still elements, are extremely bold because they don’t move. The use of the long exposure technique creates a large contrast with the blurred water and clouds because they were moving when the photo was taken. The water and clouds run together and become difficult to distinguish.
Gaydash planned his trips ahead of time and then “waited until the weather would cooperate – or not cooperate, I should say,” he said.
He chose cloudy, snowy or rainy days because the waves would be strong and people wouldn’t be out, he said.
Once arriving at an area where he planned to shoot, he went into a meditation mode between himself and nature, allowing him to find his groove and go into a different zone, he said.
Another of his favorite photos is an old cabin with the word “yes” written on the door. He found it in the Upper Peninsula while driving to another shoot.
“I wasn’t looking for that shot, but that shot ended up getting me a first-place award in Paris,” Gaydash said. “Moments like that come out of nowhere and you have to make sure you stop and capture them.”
There is no particular order that people should view the museum exhibit, he said. The images are minimal -likeand kind of Zen with simple compositions and little distraction.
The Detroit Institute of Arts is displaying Gaydash’s photos along with Instagram submissions of the Great Lakes from the public.
“I wanted to see what other people were shooting, and get a sense of what people are covering and where they go,” said Nancy Barr, the co-chief curator at the museum. “I also wanted people to feel at everybody’s work in some way.”
Gaydash is an advocate for fine print art. But he values digital and print images on the same level.
“It’s amazing photography is so accessible to everyone,” he said. “Everyone has an iPhone or almost everyone has a camera with them.”
Instagram is a great way to share your work but usually you engage more people in a gallery than on a phone screen, he said.
“My show at the DIA offers really large prints,” he said. “When you walk in and see something that large, it’s impressive as opposed to just seeing something on a small screen like a phone.”
Burr said the DIA took Instagram submissions on a previous exhibit but believes this one has received even more engagement.
“This one so far we have had over 500 images hash-tagged on Instagram.” she said.
Burr checks the hashtag every Monday and keeps track by liking the photos, and usually picks at least one a week to post in the exhibit.
The submissions are a good way to bridge generational gaps and show that the museum has something for everyone, Burr said.
“You too can be in the DIA,” said Christine Kloostra, the museum’s executive director of marketing and communications.
To enter, submit a Great Lakes photo on Instagram and use the hashtag, #mygreatlakesatthedia.
Gaydash’s images are on exhibit until May 3, 2020.
For information, see https://www.dia.org/events/michigan’s-great-lakes-photographs-jeff-gaydash
The Detroit Institute of Arts at 5200 Woodward Ave. is free for residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
Admission for others is:
|College Students (with school ID)||$8|
|Children (5 & under)||Free|
Nyjah Bunn writes for Great Lakes Echo.