Thursday, September 30, 2004
The images are recognizable even if the artist isn't.
Jeff Hall is accustomed to being in the back of the house, working for years as a restaurant chef, and he doesn't have the kind of gregarious personality that attracts attention at art openings. But his art is another story.
If you've seen a Jeff Hall photograph on the walls of any number of Depot Art Center shows, you'll remember it.
Hall's late night photograph of the VFW in Oak Creek was a hit at last year's SummerArt show. And his photograph of leaves caught in an eddy, taken on a long exposure, stopped more than one viewer at last month's Steamboat Springs Arts Council Members Show. Now, Hall has the walls to himself, and people finally can see a series of work that has been seeping into our attention for years, one piece at a time.
Hall is a quiet man who speaks in a near monotone. He's not the type to get outwardly excited, even by his obvious passion for photography.
Hall has lived in Steamboat Springs off and on since 1983. But the first time he showed any of his photographs was in 2002, when he hung a double exposure piece of a worded Scrabble board hanging in the clouds during the Arts Council's Winterworks show. The theme for the show was "Word Play" and Hall took third place for his photograph.
Hall started taking photos when he worked as a chef on a cruise ship. His photographs, taken with a programmable Canon A-1, were simply a way to record his travels.
Hall didn't start experimenting with his photography -- taking it a step above visual record-keeping -- until three years ago.
He took an online class on Photoshop from the New York Institute of Photography and started layering his photographs.
Cutting and pasting and blending for hours at his computer, Hall had one foot in the digital art world and one foot experimenting the old-fashioned way -- with shutter speeds, film speeds and multiple exposures.
Hall has been a chef most of his life. He was the head chef at Ragnar's, a sous chef at Hazie's and ran the kitchen for The Butcher Shop for years. He now works at Steamboat Meat and Seafood Company.
"As a chef, I've always been able to express myself creatively," Hall said. "But (photography) is a way to do that outside of work."
Hall goes out on his mountain bike with his camera when he has a day off. He collects images like a biologist gathering specimens for study. The images end up on his kitchen table to be painstakingly hand painted or on his computer to be manipulated.
"Most of the time, I have no idea what it's going to look like when I start," he said.
"I like to create something with a sense of mystery. I want to get people to stop and look at it and wonder how I did that, and I want them to decide for themselves how they feel about it."