J. Jason Lazarus




J. Jason Lazarus is an Alaska-based photographer and educator that creates narrative-driven photographic work utilizing a wide range of alternative and historical photographic processes.

After spending nearly two decades surrounded by the infinite beauty of the Last Frontier, from its majestic mountains to its elusive wildlife, Lazarus’ focus continues to steer clear of traditional “Alaskana” genres. It took the discovery of an intersection between multiple personal interests, from cartography and local history to a topical interest in archaeology and exploration, to find his initial muse: the forgotten mines of Interior Alaska. Yet, it’s not mere detritus that draws Lazarus to the mines - it’s the unknown stories of the common men laying latent within the creaking walls of the long-dormant stamp mills that stirs his passion for the subject. For the last ten years, Lazarus has dedicated himself to developing a way to link the lost stories of these small-time miners with the remnants of what is left behind - the simple scraps of personal letters, bank notes and newspapers left to define a once rich and storied people.

Lazarus’ most recent photographic focus involves using Chemigrams, a cameraless photographic process, and expired, antique photo paper to create a deeply personal project involving oft-forgotten symbolism from the Second World War. Lazarus also spends the lengthy, dimly-lit winter months in Alaska creating unique portraits of its fragile tundra, finding an uncanny beauty among its bleak northern latitudes. Progress on both of these projects can be seen throughout this site and on the Obscura Works Blog.

Lazarus has served as a photographic educator at the University of Alaska Fairbanks since 2005. Although he considers himself primarily a film photographer, Lazarus teaches both traditional darkroom and digital photography courses for the Art, Journalism and Summer Sessions departments at UAF. As an adjunct, he has also developed a handful of Alternative and Historical Photographic Process courses and workshops - the first of these courses to be offered at UAF. Much of Lazarus’ creative process is rooted in creating unique, handmade photographic work with these under-appreciated and obscure photographic processes. An avid collector of vintage film cameras, Lazarus may carry a Canon 5D dSLR out into the wilds of Alaska, but it's his 20 pounds of Rolleiflex and Mamiya medium format camera gear on his back that he's especially proud of.


Emblem and Artifice: Withered Symbols of the War

1945.  In a world ravaged by the Second World War, wounds ran deep. Seemingly permanent, the trauma inflicted and lessons learned from this global conflict were etched into the minds of the millions who suffered its effect. The horrors, the heroism, the defeats and victories were all carved into the collective psyche of a generation. Surrounded by reminders of this conflict, these brutal memories were similarly imprinted onto all manner of artifacts – from a fallen soldier’s uniform to the flag of an oppressive regime. Most potent of these were the symbols that had defined the conflict itself – those icons of fear and hope, oppression and resistance. These rival concepts often existed within the same symbol, even though history has often chosen to remember only one perspective. Coupled with the memories of a world on fire, these symbols were emblazoned with the regrets and hopes of all.

Looking back 70 years later, that turbulent and strong-willed generation has nearly passed on – and with them their painful memories. Those once-formidable symbols representing the collective regrets of a generation have begun to wither – and we foolishly begin to follow in footsteps best left forgotten. As much as history holds lessons for us to learn, its narrow perspective often defines regrets shallowly, failing to remember the depth of our mistakes. To appreciate a symbol of hope, we must first understand why people feared it – and to understand an insignia of hate, we must understand why it inspired.  No reflection is complete without understanding its source – and so with each emblem, there exists an artifice.


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana

Process: Using Kodabromide Paper that expired August 1, 1945 – five days before the Hiroshima Bomb – the paper is coated with a resist and the design cut into the resist.  Exposed to light, the paper is then alternated between developer and fixer (one print starts in the developer while the other starts in the fixer, and then alternated), allowing the chemistry to eat away the resist, exposing the paper to the chemistry. This action creates rust-like, decaying patterns of alternating exposed and undeveloped (yet “fixed”) areas.  Once the entire resist is washed off, the print is fixed completely and washed.

Additional Information:

Website: http://obscura-works.com/

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Signifying the Invisible
December 10, 2016 - February 4, 2017