I want you to have this piece of art on your wall so you can get lost in it every day. A great movie, to me, is when I forget my bud is sitting in the chair next to me. That’s what I want my pieces of art to do. They’re meant for you to get lost in, to meditate into. And that’s the driving force behind my art. – Henthorne
Not so long ago, several of Henthorne’s photographer pals told him how lucky he was to have discovered his niche – the creation of stark, evocative black and white seascapes – so early in his career. For most, they said, it takes decades of hitting and missing. Henthorne found it, and mastered it, in less than three years.
“I just assumed everybody did what they were passionate about,” he says. “Why would you do anything else?”
Henthorne, 46, has a first name. It’s Jason. Like a lot of artists, however, he’s dropped it for a simple moniker that’s both his surname and an instantly-recognizable branding ID.
Born in the Midwest, Henthorne had a career in marketing and sales, but has been a globe-trotting adventurer and art photographer for 20 years. After a long time living in Tampa, he became a St. Petersburg resident in 2016.
“St. Pete’s just so supportive of the arts,” he enthuses. “It’s just such a different attitude. I go running on Bayshore in the morning, and everybody I see is really happy, really at peace. Well, there’s a couple of curmudgeons … but there’s such great people over here.
“Obviously, I can go live anywhere in the world that I want, and do what I do, but I choose to live here.”
What he “does” is create large, high-contrast prints of sea and sky, shot from carefully-chosen terra firma sites. Henthorne uses a long-exposure technique – usually about three minutes – and the results are surreal, dream-like images of the planet, as only the eyes of an artist can compose.
The rock formations, train trestles or coastal mountains are still, standing erect and frozen in time. But the moody clouds, white and off-white, look like the brushstrokes of an impressionist painter. The ocean waves blur into a ghostly mist.
“I call then epic exposures,” Henthorne says. “Where I really get to bend time. They’re very surreal. I capture cumulative time, and it’s all in one shot. It’s magic. It’s everything that happens over three minutes caught in one frame.”
He’s been to 65 countries, and 49 of the 50 states (somehow, Alaska seems to have eluded him thus far). “There’s so much that happens right there at this intersection of ocean and earth,” he says.
A compulsive traveler since his youth, Henthorne says he’s always been obsessed with the ocean (“it’s my zen space”), and began shooting underwater photos while in his early 20s.
In the early days of the Internet, he eagerly shared his work through photo sites. “I went to these crazy, amazing places in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and most of the people I shared with were never going to be able to get there,” he recalls. “And when people started buying them I thought, ‘I’ve got to raise my game a lot.’”
Snap! That’s when he discovered minimalist black and white, and became an art photographer.
Although his work is framed in several Florida galleries, Henthorne doesn’t consider himself a “gallery” guy. He sells custom prints through his website, and his works are in the collections of private individuals – and businesses – all over the world.
He’s currently in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to fund his seventh limited edition book. Explore, he says, includes the “best of the best” of his work from the past seven years – a collection of images from Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Iceland and Coastal Florida.
The 250-page volume will be produced, like its predecessors, at a vintage offset printing facility in Verona, Italy – the only place, the artist has found, that can reproduce the tonal subtleties of the original photographs.
What Henthorne does isn’t easy. It takes more than a good camera and a virile travel bug to come up with photos that will astonish 10 feet wide on a living room wall in Tokyo or Paris (or St. Pete).
Each location is heavily researched – down to the probable location for his tripod – before he buys the plane ticket. There are more than a dozen variables, from tide levels to the time of year to the surprise appearance of a human being in the frame.
“I just got back from six weeks in Australia, shooting a new series,” he says. “My prime zones to shoot are about 30 minutes on either side of sunrise and sunset. That’s the primo light – the rest of the day is, ehhh, so-so. You start doing the math quickly – I only get maybe 20 shots in that zone.
“So it’s not like other photography. I pick my spot, and I pick exactly where I’m going to set up. I might move the tripod
a couple inches either way. You commit to it and make it happen.
“And sometimes it takes six days to get a shot.”
That’s not to say everything’s done via calculation. Sometimes, nature tells the artist what to paint. “We have the most gorgeous clouds on the planet in Florida,” Henthorne says. “When one of those comes over – especially a really thick one – it changes the available light by several F stops. So it’s like you’re having to re-calculate the shot in the middle of the shot.”
Henthorne’s oceanic devotion extends to conservation – he is a supporter of the organization One Percent For the Planet, and contributes one percent of his annual sales – not just his profits – to the cause.
He hopes his art will do some good as well. “I want to inspire people to protect this ocean, and realize how absolutely important it is to everything on the planet,” he says. “I mean, there’s no green without blue.”