Artists » Jon Kolkin

Jon KolkinJon Kolkin has had one foot in the arts and the other in the sciences for over 30 years. Jon began his love affair with photography as a young child working in his father’s darkroom. He expanded his artistic horizons, becoming a nationally recognized clarinetist who toured Europe with the National Youth Symphony. These passions, combined with his fascination with the sciences, resulted in Jon’s decision to pursue a major in chemistry at Emory University with a minor in the Arts.

After college he pursued a degree in Medicine and then began his practice as a physician. However, throughout his medical career he never abandoned his love for the arts.  He took photography courses at night while simultaneously completing his residency then honed his artistic skills further after entering private practice.  Jon now devotes himself to working full-time as a professional Fine Art photographer when in the United States and teaching medicine to other physicians in underserved countries when traveling around the world.

Each of Jon’s bodies of work tends to focus on social topics that invite dialogue, understanding and mutual respect between people with different points of view.  He is a frequent lecturer on topics such as “Maintaining relevance within our lives” and “Finding a healthy balance between our professional and personal lives’”.

His captivating images have won numerous awards and have drawn the attention of private and corporate collectors worldwide. Jon’s artwork has also been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the country and in many prominent photography magazines includingB & W, Color and Camera Arts. He is a founding artist of the Maine Museum of Photographic Arts.

As stated by the Artist:

“It is my feeling that most people’s interpretation of their environment is based on their preconceived perception of reality. This understanding on one’s surroundings is built on previous experiences and the confines of our three dimensional world and five senses. But what if there are other dimensions and other senses? And what might be the benefit of changing ones’ point of view? My art is a vehicle to look below the surface, to see our world from a fresh perspective, perhaps even a fourth dimension. My work is intended to inspire others to recognize that each of us interprets our surroundings in our own unique way. It is my hope that this exercise can lead to more tolerance and understanding in our world.”

Jon’s body of work, “Seeking Wisdom – Impressions from Bhutan and Buddhist Philosphy”, was inspired by a six week trip to Bhutan, the only Buddhist Kingdom in the world, situated high in the Himalayan Mountains. This series is intended to stimulate a dialogue about the complex interplay of factors that influence our thought process while drawing attentiont to the importance of striving to achieve a higher level of intellect, I.E. wisdom. “In my opinion, wisdom involves an ability to think creatively, visualizing a situation from both a macro and micro vantage point, while weighing the merits of both traditional and novel approaches. However, equally important is a  commitment to move forward in a manner that has the greatest potential for benefiting society balanced with an ability to maintain one’s own inward peace, equilibrium and personal health.”

About 18 months after his trip to Bhutan, Jon scheduled a trip to Wenzou, China. He planned to photograph Buddhist monks for the Seeking Wisdom series; however, he ended up launching into a different project altogether. Jon discovered an intriguing comment in a blog about a secluded Buddhist monastery called the Taiping Temple, tucked away in the heart of the city. On day two of his trip he left his hotel for a 20 minute cab ride to the front gate of this incredible monastery.  He walked through the entrance and suddenly found himself in the middle of a 3-acre cloistered community of over a 100 female Buddhist monks and nuns. Despite all the chaos that surrounded them, he felt these women had found a way to remain centered, stripping away all the superfluous, unnecessary static that is so prevalent in most societies. It seemed these remarkable women possessed an Inner Harmony that transcended time and place. Jon wanted to capture with his camera his interpretation of what he sensed existed inside the minds of these dedicated practitioners of Buddhism, as opposed to simply documenting it.

He knew from his experience in Bhutan that he would face huge challenges. In his words, “Buddhist monks, by nature, are very reserved and avoid seeking attention.  They rarely allow their picture to be taken, particularly if it includes their face.  So, here I was, a towering, male Caucasian with a full-sized camera in his hands, unable to speak their language hoping to put these reclusive monks and nuns at ease so that I could authentically capture their mood with my camera.” And then there was the permission piece – general restrictions on photographing in and around temples. Technical problems arose, as well, like the fact that these sanctuaries tend to be dimly lit, and Jon had to rely exclusively on nature light .

Jon’s respectful, unrushed, gentle nature came in handy here. He attended multiple meetings with the master and her representatives. He showed them samples of his work and gave careful explanation of intention. It was this thoughtful approach that eventually extended him the extraordinary privilege of photographing this magical setting for several days.

After he had a clear sense of what he wanted to accomplish with this body of work he was able to make a number of artistic decisions. He decided to do the series in black and white because he felt it would more effectively translate the mood of the environment. He also felt strongly that the images needed to be small, creating an intimate setting that draws the viewer in close, allowing them to briefly glimpse into the world of these Buddhist monks and nuns.  Finally, he decided to print these images using one of the oldest, most prized photographic techniques, Palladium printing, even though it is a very labor intensive, exacting and expensive process.  He specifically chose Palladium because one can achieve a remarkable level of depth, beauty and intimacy – something that is virtually impossible to replicate with more modern techniques.

We hope you enjoy these special images. Please click below to see a video of Jon speaking about the series.


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