Spotlight on Photographer John Heino

John Heino, long-time keyboardist for the Centerville All Stars, has been a perpetual advocate for the arts and for community involvement. After a career in the energy industry, Heino is currently caught up in another of his lifetime passions, photography.




EN: How did you first become interested in photography?
JH: When I hit the road with a band fresh out of high school, I took a lot of pictures with a cheap camera. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about art. I just wanted to bottle the adventure. But there’s nothing like the real experience, and it’s a bit pathetic trying to relive it through a photograph. A picture can trigger strong emotions and vivid memories, but it can never match the intensity of being there for someone who lived the experience.

When I eventually started college as an art major, I chose an emphasis in photography. For a long time, I shot exclusively in black and white for fine arts purposes. And I still love it for light revealing form, textures, and powerful impact. Whenever I work in color, I still try to think in terms of light revealing form.  A strong photo needs dark shadows, bright highlights, and sufficient gradation. And that holds for color as well as black and white. When I digitally process a color image, the very first thing I do is set black and white levels. For those photographers out there who don’t currently do that, I suggest giving it a try. See for yourself how setting black and white levels up front helps create a color image that really pops.

EN: You recently said you are seeing things you never saw before. What do you mean by this, and what kinds of things?
JH: Recently, I had a vivid childhood memory of lying on my back in a field of fragrant, green grass. There was a brilliant blue sky overhead with beautiful fluffy white clouds. I could even hear the drone of a plane. After all these years, it was my first tenuous reconnection with the way I saw things as a child—a wide-eyed explorer discovering marvels in the simplest things.

Since that memory, I have been trying to approach shooting the way a child wanders through the world, noticing whatever is fun or interesting to look at. I doubt you can ever completely neutralize all the adult baggage that filters and constrains perception, but I’m noticing wonders I would have missed a year ago.

This wander/wonder approach helped me discover the magic of light pockets in the forest. Initially, what’s left of my inner child noticed the electric green of the backlit leaves in these scenes. Now I see these treasures everywhere. Once seen, of course, all the technical and compositional thinking kicks in, and it becomes a matter of taking that childhood wonder and rendering the best possible capture. This new wrinkle is diversifying my portfolio of images.

EN: You have been a long-time advocate for the arts and were part of the Art Works project. Why was this project important to you?
JH: We have so much talent in this area, but historically it’s been tough for artists to make a living here just from their work. One of the thrusts of Art Works was to let local art buyers know that we have a rich supply of top-notch local art available. And, in recent years, I think we’ve made good progress toward creating a more vibrant local market for art. We have much to do, but we’re headed in the right direction.

EN: What’s your take on what is happening today in the Twin Ports arts scene?
JH: The scene is exploding. Look at all the new galleries in the past couple years—it’s really exciting! More people are engaging, the stream of new work is impressive, and I think momentum is still building.

The facet that’s lagging, in my opinion, is turning creative success into real economic benefits for artists, galleries, and arts organizations. When I go to an opening, I still do not see many (if any) buyers with the financial wherewithal to purchase one or more pieces priced above, say, $100. Personally, I sell far more prints, mostly through Facebook, and the client decides how to mat and frame the piece based on their budget. It’s rare that I sell a matted and framed print or a large format dye-infused aluminum piece at a local show.

We need to find out what it would take to entice more affluent art buyers in the region to buy local art. Is there some real or perceived lack of quality or vision in local art? Real, I don’t think so; perceived, maybe. If that’s true, how can we change that perception? Perhaps it’s just collectors’ interest in buying “names”—artists with established profiles in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or some other major market. The dialog has improved since Art Works, I think, but we need to get to a point where we really understand the dynamics of the regional art market and build from there.

To see more of Heino’s work, visit the John Heino Photography page on Facebook, as well as his collection on Capture Minnesota.