Seacoast native makes ‘Instant Connections’
By Robert Levey
January 21, 2014 2:00 AM
PORTSMOUTH — Jason Landry, a 1991 Portsmouth High School graduate, will sign copies of his recently published book, “Instant Connections: Essays and Interviews on Photography,” on Feb. 7 at the New Hampshire Art Association Gallery.
Weaving essays, interviews, quotes and autobiographical stories around a central theme of photography, the book includes a wide range of secondary themes that include how to make connections and build one’s own personal network. It also features interviews with renowned artists such as Vik Muniz, Leonard Nimoy and Harold Feinstein, and quotes from various artists and collectors. Perhaps just as interesting as the book itself, however, is why Landry wrote it.
“When I was in college, there were a lot of critical theory books on photography that I was forced to read,” he said. “I decided to write a book that was anti-critical theory —— a book that shares real stories of a photographer, photography collector and gallery owner.”
Noting that it goes against every book on the subject he has ever read, he said he also wanted to write something that addresses the business end of art.
“Many art colleges don’t teach artists how to market and sell what they create,” he said. “They don’t teach them about building and creating an art network of peers to help them connect to the world, or how to go about creating their personal brand. You could be the greatest artist, but without some of these business skills, you will struggle to go anywhere in the art world.”
As for how Landry has made it in the art world — he is the owner and director of Panopticon Gallery in Boston — he said he was fortunate enough to work in business before earning his art degrees. He said he also received some help along the way.
“Once I left that career behind to walk the path of an artist, I had mentors who guided me down the right paths in order to avoid pitfalls,” said Landry, who noted all of these mentors appear in his book. “Without them, I don’t know if I would have stuck with it.”
In reflecting on what led him to initially develop an interest in photography, he cited his first photography class at Portsmouth High School. From that point on, he said, he was in “hook, line and sinker.”
“I always gravitated toward the arts, but when I was able to develop and print my own images in the darkroom, it was the first time that I felt in control of an art medium,” he said. “I never really felt in control or comfortable with what I drew to what I painted.”
Drawing inspiration from that class, he said his earliest photographs were of Portsmouth and Greenland, as he captured images related to the landscape, apple orchards and friends. He said his most memorable work from his high school days, though, was a black and white photograph he took of “a perfectly planted row of pine trees” in his back yard.
“It was the second image on the first roll of black and white film that I ever developed,” he said. “I have that photograph framed and hanging in my living room amongst my collection.”
In electing to donate 50 percent of all book sales to the NHAA during the reception and book-signing event next month, Landry said it is important he maintain roots in a town that still means a great deal to him.
“My wife and I like to give back, especially to art organizations that we feel are doing great things for their community,” he said. “I know firsthand how hard it is to manage, especially in a economy that hasn’t been so friendly to us over the past couple of years. … It’s great to have an organization like this in Portsmouth and a gallery space that has been around for a while.”
The book-signing event is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, at NHAA’s Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery, 136 State St. For information about NHAA, call 431-4230 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Landry or Panopticon Gallery, call (617) 267-8929 or e-mail at email@example.com.