Interview with

Photographer and Arts Organizer Carson Jones

By Molly Anderson | Posted 12/28/09 | Updated 8/27/23

Photo by Carson JonesStrap in for a little artistic excitement — this interview has a local flavor. I'm chatting with Carson Jones, a photographer and arts organizer in Durango, Colorado — my hometown! I had the chance to participate in her Guerilla art show, "Ferocious Feelings," in October, and it was an amazing experience.

Q: What drew you to Durango from your home in Texas? Durango is famous for being a transient town — tell me why you stayed?

A: I grew up in Texas with my mother and older sister, completed Undergrad and decided to go on a road trip with my ex-husband. We ended up in Durango for some summer vacationing and I immediately had the feeling of being "home." The mountains and the people reminded me of something that had been missing in my life for quite some time. I continued to visit for two years and finally, on my last drive back to Texas, said that I had to live here. I have been here since '98 and love Durango. It is my home.

Q: What is your vision for the local arts community in Durango over the next ten years?

A: As you are well aware, this town is full of artists, and our region has so much to offer the art world. While I was director at the Durango Arts Center I recognized that DAC was built on the visual arts but is moving now in so many directions! This town will continue to boom in the art world, I do think it is going to take some creativity to hold the multiple aspects of art together. I do believe that the DAC needs to recognize what it really wants to be, a single art sector or a multidisciplinary arts center. Our county is comprised of many devoted artists, and we should all try to support the art venues and the artists. I think the galleries do an outstanding job of being 'in touch' with the artists. I would love to see this town be recognized as an up and coming artist community.

Photo by Carson JonesQ: What is the importance of Guerilla art events to the community — and to the artists themselves?

A: Good question. I think it is refreshing for us all. I feel that the Guerilla shows are imperative to our community. Artists can relax, get involved, support a theme (with their own interpretation) put a price tag on their efforts and ingenuity, and make new friends in the meantime.

I started the Guerilla shows here because I felt I was missing something. I have so many projects in my head and sometimes I act on them if there is an appropriate venue. As an artist, I can appreciate meeting other artists in our area and also meeting the art lovers of our community. You meet and connect with new people and other ideas spring from those conversations. I also like that local business owners, who may have an empty space, offer their locations for the shows. People in our community are so gracious, and again, this is another avenue of donation.

Q: What new projects, exhibits, and events are you most looking forward to?

A: "Deliciously Weird" is coming up in February. This year I considered offering four shows and I am still trying to decide on whether that should be. In the fall I am going to have another show as well. Stay tuned for that theme, it's outrageous. For me, I am going to continue to freelance and also take a photography trip. I photograph weddings, so the summer is always made up of meeting wedding parties and documenting their days! I have two special projects in the works. I hope to have a show in 2011. This project is going to take me at least the full year to complete!

Q: What inspired your election year event, "Political Sidebar"?

A: I wanted to present a show where all political affiliations could be represented in whatever way the artist chose to.

Q: What inspired the creation of your guerilla art events in Durango, like "Ferocious Feelings" and "Deliciously Weird"? Where can artists get details about upcoming events in our area?

A: Always check Arts Perspective Magazine. Heather continues to sponsor the shows and she usually publishes the info there. I always have "Deliciously Weird" in February and an alternate show in the fall.

Q: I participated in "Ferocious Feeling" in October — what an amazing event! What were some of the highlights of the night for you? Will you be revisiting this theme in future shows?

A: Interestingly enough, the Feelings booth was a huge hit. For people to just go in, take a look at themselves, and then jot down their immediate feelings… it was a great addition to the show. While I was hanging the show the night before, my friend and I kept looking at that empty closet space wondering what in the heck we could do with it. And then voila. It was created. I just love these shows. Our community is amazing and when people come out to support artists, buy a one of a kind piece and enjoy the night, you know you have support.

Q: How can artists organize events like this in their own communities? Any hot tips for someone who wants to create a Guerilla art event of their own?

A: It's seriously a grass roots effort. If you have an idea, do it. What's the worst that could happen, it could fail, but if you're passionate about it, your passion will show through and your excitement will produce that kind of energy and people will want to be a part of it!

Q: What inspires and informs your work as a photographer? Who were your early influences, and whose work inspires you today?

A: Sometimes people say I have a dark side. Who doesn't? When I photograph and imagine a piece through my lens, I really see it in black and white. I was trained in black and white and the depth, the light, the expression, or lack thereof is what really attracts me to capture an image.

This past year I challenged myself with color, and I think as artists we need challenge ourselves often. In doing this, I have a whole new appreciation for color and capturing that with my camera. What inspires me? Emotion. Emotion can be seen, someone can feel it, someone can ignore it. There are so many physical and mental pieces with emotion and that is why I love photography. The subject doesn't have to be a human, nor does the subject even have to look at you. Documenting a moment will bring some kind of emotion to you, as the photographer and then the viewer will then experience their own emotion. That is what inspires me.

Q: In your opinion, what is the true role of an arts center in a community, and how can such an organization best serve its artists?

A: I love the Arts Center. I wanted to help and make change. It needs change and I don't think anyone would argue that. For me, I think if any business or non-profit wants to succeed, focusing on what they are great at and pushing through with that skill will ensures greatness. And, with that, I think it is important that the DAC cannot be everything to everyone. I know the newly formed board is making strides and they need support.

Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

A: A lingering breakfast with the fireplace blazing. And capturing a person on film, without them knowing what a meaningful moment they just created.

Q: What's the best way to unwind after a long day in the studio?

A: I usually take my dog for a hike or I ride my bike. I get a lot of clarity riding my bike. Oh, and wine with girlfriends.

Q: Any advice or words of wisdom for fledgling Guerilla artists?

A: DO IT. What do you have to lose? Seriously. DO IT. You will inspire all of us.

Q: What is your single most reliable source of creative inspiration?

A: Life and tragedy. Happiness and struggle. Beauty and darkness. And my heart.

©2009 by Molly Anderson. All rights reserved.