One of Montana’s most prolific and published photographers will head up an entire day of discussions and stories about his work at the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell.
Donald M. Jones, who lives in Troy, is known nationally and internationally primarily for his work shooting photographs of wildlife, particularly the creatures inhabiting North America.
Jones has tallied more than 600 magazine covers as part of his legacy, along with clients like Field and Stream magazine, Time, Outdoor Life, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Columbia Sportswear, L.L. Bean, and more.
And now, his photographs have a new life at the Hockaday Museum of Art, where 27 of them are on display in the exhibit, “Wild and Free: Photographs of North American Wildlife,” until Jan. 21.
The Hockaday has planned an entire day of Jones leading tours around his exhibit, on Jan. 7.
Barry Conger, the interim executive director at the Hockaday, said the exhibit is a chance for a well-known photographer to flex his creative muscles a bit more than traditional editorial images allow.
“Most of his work is photojournalism related, so he tends to shoot the kinds of shots that Field and Stream might want to grab,” Conger said. “When we asked him to do this exhibit, he was excited. He said he was trying to focus more on what would be artistic pieces for him.”
The resulting exhibit is a striking collection of photographs of animals most of us will never see up close, usually for safety reasons (grizzly bears are a favorite subject in Jones’ work). The photographs are “huge” when compared to regular photos or even computer screens, Conger said, with most of them coming in at 4-feet-by-5-feet.
“They’re absolutely compelling,” Conger said. “They get your attention.”
All the photographs are also canvas mounted, giving them even more drama.
“Everyone who walks in is amazed at how vibrant and realistic they are,” Conger said.
Of course the images are striking, but Conger also noted that Jones’ stories about each photo really bring them into focus. As a photographer, Jones made all of the photos in the wild, meaning none of them were staged or at wildlife refuges where a bear or a mountain lion might be easier to find.
With this in mind, each photo takes on a new life, providing more context between the subject and the photographer. It makes Jones’ work more impressive and realistic, even when the images seem like they must have been faked to have been captured.
“He has a ton of really fascinating stories,” Conger said.
For most of the morning on Jan. 7, Jones will lead ongoing tours aimed largely at school-aged visitors. Then, starting at 2 p.m., he’ll dive into the more in-depth tour for the general public, during which he will likely discuss the logistics, composition, and capturing the moment in each photograph.
From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Jones will be available for one-on-one conversations with museum visitors, as well as photography tips, anecdotes, and answering questions. Finally, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Jones will host a book signing of his various printed works – books, calendars, prints – and continue with informal walk-through tours of the exhibit.
Admission to the Jan. 7 events is free, and schools and other organizations are invited to make tour reservations for the morning sessions.
Conger said it has been rewarding to see Jones select and promote more art-based photography, because it’s another facet to an already-touted artist.
“He’s very dynamic, and excited to interact with visitors at the Hockaday,” Conger said.
For more information on the Wild and Free exhibit, visit www.hockadaymuseum.org or call 406-755-5268.