Micro World, Macro Happiness: JRoss Photography

JRoss

I was born and raised in Camden, NJ. I’ve been doing art in some form or fashion for most of my life. I started out drawing superhero characters I saw in comic books. Once I got to high school I learned how to paint and after I graduated I joined the Army where I served for 10 years. During my time in the Army I dipped my feet into Graphic Design and Digital Illustration, but it wasn’t until I left the military and went to college at Fayetteville Tech that I started taking Graphic Design seriously. However during my studies I had to take couple of photography courses and fell completely in love with it. 

I consumed all things photography and anything related to it. Fast forward to 2004, I left college and started doing portraiture out of my house, where I still shoot from time to time, and then I discovered drones and the world of 360 photography and added those to my creative arsenal. I’ve been able to use the skills I learned and was able to combine them into what is now JRoss Photography – Fayetteville, NC, where I create traditional as well as custom portraits, sports banners, posters, and wall art. When people ask me what I do as far as art, my answer is usually “that depends on what you want done.”

I do have a regular job that I work during the week, but when the weekend comes, the cameras come out. I use Social Media exclusively for my business. You can find me on Facebook and on Instagram.

portrait of the artist

3 Things that make my life richer:

1. My family makes my life richer because they are my biggest cheerleaders. Whenever I have to go on location for a shoot I can always count on my wife, sons, or even one of my nephews or nieces to help me with anything I may need. I use my wife as my unbiased art critic whenever I create something because she will definitely tell me if what I create sucks or not. Fun fact: my wife and mother-in law went in to buy me my first professional DSLR camera so I guess you could say they were my first investors!

2. Art makes my life richer because I always try and figure out how a particular piece of art was created. The colors the artist used, the thought process behind it…I mean everything. Whenever I’m around art of any type, whether it’s music, video, traditional, etc, I just feel at peace in that moment because I can embrace what the artist created for that moment and put my troubles to the side.

3. Education makes my life richer. I’m a firm believer in the saying; you’re never too old to learn something new. I will find myself watching a random YouTube video on a skill that I might be able to use to create some art, and before I realize it; a few hours will have went by. I just find learning something new exciting and fun.

Local artist I admire: I really don’t know a lot of local artists; I have however gotten the chance to work with a talented music artist named Jamie Davis. I met him at an art show we both were featured in and I ended up creating the album art for his project entitled The Village. I admire the fact that he takes his art seriously and the fact the he gives back to his community.

One of my current artistic experiments: I’ve been delving deep into the 360 Photography / Tiny Planet branch of the photography tree. I first saw Ben Claremont (the top 360 photographer in the world) on YouTube about a year ago, and saw how he creates his tiny planets, so I bought a 360 Camera and have been creating Tiny Planets ever since, when I’m not taking portraits. I eventually want to get a coffee table book of all my 360 planets.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Like most businesses that deal with customer service, when the pandemic hit, I had to adjust from doing studio sessions to doing more on location sessions. That’s also when I took up doing 360 Photography, and yes I plan on keeping it.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I have a spare room in my house to store my equipment and where I work on new designs. It’s usually messy…I’ll just leave it at that. When I have a shoot I’ll either use my living room, or dining area, otherwise I’ll most likely be on location.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? For my 360 photography, I’ll usually ride around town, or even go out of town and just look for interesting buildings, bridges, trees, etc. Basically anywhere that I think would look good as a Tiny Planet. I’ll usually spend a few hours shooting at a space and then cull the images to create a tiny planet.

Advice to newer artists in your genre: I honestly don’t know too many 360 Photographers, but as far as photography in general: never stop learning new techniques, absorb everything you can from more experienced photographers, learn how to take constructive criticism, and most of all remember: YOU are the artist, so create art that makes YOU happy.

The World is his Muse: Author Shane Wilson

Shane Wilson is a story-teller. It doesn’t quite matter what format those stories come in. Short stories. Novels. Plays. Songs. Podcasts. Shane’s always looking for the story and figuring out how to share it. 

Shane moved to Fayetteville in 2014, “for love. But it didn’t work out.” he says. (Another story) By day, he teaches in the English Department at Fayetteville Technical Community College. By night, he works on his own creations. He’s released two novels to date: A Year Since the Rain and The Smoke in His Eyes. A third is with his editor while he’s writing the first draft of a fourth. There are numerous short stories, including “The Boy Who Kissed The Rain”, which he adapted into a stage play after it won the 2017 Rilla Askew Short Fiction Prize. 

Then there’s Sequoia Rising, Shane’s band with fellow musician Jerry Smith. “I decided to learn to play guitar when I wrote Smoke,” Shane explained, “and then the muse hit me with the song “Before We Fade Away”.” Again, they are most interested in telling their own stories through their music. That led Shane to a writer’s retreat over the summer at an isolated artists’ cabin in the NC mountains. “I came back with an entire album’s worth of songs,” Shane grinned. (yet more stories) 

When I asked whether he considers himself a “teaching artist” or a “teacher and artist”, he admitted he “tried to compartmentalize but it’s absurd to think parts don’t creep into the classroom.” He loves teaching and knew from an early age he wanted to be in the classroom, partially because he had formative educational experiences in school with his own English and Literature teachers. “They allowed me to think differently and acknowledged my capacity for weird or out of the box thinking.” He tries to do the same for his community college students. “These are the people who need me: they need an advocate in academia.” 

In addition to his own artistic work, Shane is interested in collaborating with other artists on interesting projects. Fayetteville has quite a few local authors and Shane helped pull many of them together in December 2018 to partake in a literary scavenger hunt, leaving copies of their books downtown and encouraging the finders to post pictures with the hashtag #freereadsfay. He can often be found at Java Expressions Live, the longest running open mic in Fayetteville (yet more stories), at The Coffee Scene on Sunday and Monday evenings, trying out new tunes or talking with founder/master of ceremonies Neil Ray about some new act or idea. 

When asked what he is most excited about about Fayetteville, Shane commented on how “there are different pockets, something to cohere to but everybody has their own identity.” He talked about downtown’s regrowth and how there is a growing sense of an artistic and cultural community here. Much like the general atmosphere at Java Expressions, Fayetteville itself has a “If I can dream it, I can do it” vibe going on right now. Artists, teachers, collaborators like Shane play a huge role in that.  

“Minor Mood”, Major Chops: The All American Jazz Collective

Imagine eating lunch under the shade of an old oak tree, the mellow sounds of John Coltrane or Thelonious Monk wafting around you from a quintet sitting adjacent in the park. How melodious. How cosmopolitan. How All American.

Well, I have news for you: You can do just such a thing on the campus of Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) every other Friday this coming fall when the All American Jazz Collective starts playing again. This loose quintet–sometimes a quartet, sometimes a sextet or more–plays on campus as well as various community gathering places around Fayetteville.

Jazz has a long history in the state. Coltrane hailed from High Point, Monk from Rocky Mount. Nina Simone is from Tryon, Billy Strayhorn spent formative years in Hillsborough. The NC Arts Council maintains a trail through eastern North Carolina dedicated to these luminaries and their stories. Perhaps we can get Fayetteville on the map: trumpeter Waymon Reed is from here. So the All American Jazz Collective is carrying on a proud North Carolinian tradition.

All American Jazz Collective
One lineup of the AAJC, Pappas far left, Carey in middle. Photo courtesy Anthony Russell.

AAJC started performing together in the fall of 2017. Co-founder Daniel Pappas mused, “Fayetteville had lots of R&B or Smooth jazz, even some fusion, but we wanted to do traditional jazz music.” Pappas moved here five years ago to teach and now runs the music department at FTCC. Jazz wasn’t his main musical focus before teaching at FTCC. “I felt I could speak about it better if I played it,” he chuckled. And with the wide spectrum of jazz styles, musicians, and songs to choose from, there is always something to play or to improvise around.

Jenne Carey, also a recent transplant to Fayetteville, and vocal instructor with FTCC, sings with AAJC. Jazz isn’t her background either–she’s a classically trained opera singer–but she jumped at the chance to grow her skills and range. “Ellington, Gershwin: these composers fused jazz with classical,” she enthused. The other members of the Collective vary from performance to performance. The March 2019 lineup at Holy Trinity included Jay Locklear on piano, Landon Oliver on organ, Anthony Russell on drums, and Willie Lockett (who is a former 82nd Airborne Bandmaster) on bass.

In addition to private functions, the AAJC has played at the opening of the Hope Mills Lake and with Sweet Tea Shakespeare. “I wish there was a jazz club here,” Pappas said. Hence the Friday Jazz Lunches and other community performances. Perhaps the new Jazzio’s restaurant on Bragg Blvd might be interested in the group to perform…

AAJC is an exciting contribution to the Fayetteville music scene. Pappas mentioned he was particularly enthusiastic about the Cape Fear New Music Festival, held at Methodist University in the Spring. Both Methodist and Fayetteville State University have strong music programs, including jazz studies. All these musical connections between educational establishments, bands, and individuals will make our city sound that much more rhythmic.