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Sharing stories of people
who chose Bemidji
as their town

Jon H.

Posted: May 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Downtown | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »
Photography by: Julie Saari
Jon H.
Back Alley – Downtown Bemidji
April 2011

Always looking for an adventure Jon Heller can be found on his bike or on the road exploring and photographing his experiences.  Jon takes as many photos for friends as he does for assignments.  A style unique to Bemidji Jon Heller has a flair for photography not usually seen in a town our size.  One of the first people to contact me after I started This is my town: Bemidji, Jon and I have become friends and he has helped me on numerous occasions get a shot I can’t, or to loan me equipment I could only dream of using much less have.  You have seen some of Jon’s work on the Facebook page in the Where the Heck? pics as well as the profile photos as well.

Some of you know him, but for the rest let me introduce you to Jon Heller:

A big part of my story is pretty much the same as everyone else that grew up in Bemidji. Born and raised in the Bemidji area but with the desire to travel away from here. I would read stacks of “outside” magazines dreaming about all the places I wanted to visit without knowing how I could make it happen.

Then in 1993 on a family vacation to Glacier National Park everything changed when my Dad showed me how to use his old Nikon FE camera. Once those first rolls of Kodachrome  came back I was hooked, finally an art form that let me record what I saw in the world the way that I saw it. On top of it all it was easy or at least I thought so after seeing those first slides. From that point on I devoured every magazine, book and behind the scenes video I could get my hands on which is when I started to realize how much more there was to getting successful images. It doesn’t even matter what kind of photos I’m shooting, a lot of photographers only shoot one thing but I don’t really care what I point my camera at as long as it inspires or moves me in some way. I have lived in Montana, Wyoming, Florida and California and traveled to all the places in between but I keep ending up in Bemidji.

Hours after graduating from high school I was on the road back to Montana to attend photography school for the summer. By this point my main direction was in photographing people, still loving it all  I just shot what ever I could. On top of that I was on my own, exploring the mountains around Missoula.  However, by the time the program was done I was ready to come back to Bemidji.  I spent the next few years working odd jobs while trying to build a portfolio as good as the images I saw in magazines with little success, the ideas were there but I was still missing something. Then. I got hired to assist a new commercial photographer in Bemidji who showed me how much work and gear went into getting those shots I was trying to emulate.  He had all the gear  and would let me borrow it for my own shoots. That’s when my images started to improve by leaps and bounds.

I have paid my photographic dues over the years shooting baby, family and wedding photos to the point where those are the only things I refuse to shoot. Mostly due to the fact that I was never very good at those kinds of shoots but they managed to pay for the gear that let my work evolve into what it is today.  I do love photographing people though, anything from sports to environmental portraits. For my personal projects I tend to be drawn to people that I find interesting on some level usually through what they do for work or their hobbies. I really enjoy trying to create images of artists from other mediums.

I’m at a place right now where my photos are getting published on a fairly regular basis and it still doesn’t get old seeing my images on the cover of magazines. I still haven’t picked just one direction to go in, one day I might be shooting a orchestra conductor the next I might be dangling from a rope shooting a rock climber, all things I have actually shot in Bemidji.

That’s the great thing about Bemidji is that even though it would be considered by most a small town things are constantly changing and evolving around here to the point where there is always something new to shoot. I think that is why I have such a hard time choosing a direction with my photography and sticking to it.  At the same time I am constantly brow beaten by the small town mentality around here. People automatically assuming that some one who claims to be a photographer and doesn’t run a portrait studio is creepy and should be avoided (mostly because they have seen too many made for TV movies). Though a lot of that has died down since I started shooting for a local woman’s magazine.
The last two or three years though have really been amazing, constantly shooting something and actually having people volunteer to be in my images.  Three years agoy works improved immensely when I went digital  and was really able to experiment with lighting. I quickly converting from a natural light only type of a shooter to an available light shooter, and by that I mean any light that is available. I will drag enough lighting equipment out to a shoot that it looks like I could be shooting for Rolling Stone when I am probably shooting something as a favor to a friend or a portfolio piece for myself.
Through all of my travels over the years and even the places I have only dreamed of visiting I love having Bemidji as my home base. With all my odd ball friends (term of endearment) that have supported my photography over the years usually by being the subject matter and the area locations that have served as the backdrop for my images this place is home. I am a 31 year old Bemidji local and it has taken most of those 31 years to realize how great of a thing that actually is.
Jon’s Photo Shoot can be seen HERE
Photos by Julie Saari
Examples of Jon’s photography can be seen HERE

Jon’s links:
Photo Blog
Adventure Bum

4 Comments on “Jon H.”

  1. 1 Christina T. said at 10:56 am on May 3rd, 2011:

    Glad to see the story showing up again- it’s been too long!!

    It’s such a cool way to get to know our community- Thanks for introducing us to Jon (I’m an admirer of your photography).

    And Julie- great shots on this one, you have grown (or were pushed and inspired by this shoot?)- either way, bravo to both!

  2. 2 S Disse said at 4:07 pm on May 3rd, 2011:

    Where were the alley photos taken and why there?

  3. 3 Kevin Johnson said at 8:02 am on June 9th, 2011:

    I searched Facebook for ‘what the heck?” and Jon was unfindable via this method.

  4. 4 Julie said at 10:28 am on June 9th, 2011:

    You can find some of his pics on the This is my town: Bemidji Facebook page.


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