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In his mind’s eye: The photography of Jon Marshall



By Marcie Hahn-Knoff Contributor

Jon Marshall has visions. He sees a photographic image in his mind moments, days or even years before the shutter finally clicks. Sometimes his camera captures his idea immediately, but often it takes painstaking hours of melding together multiple images to get it right. It’s all part of his process, a mix of photography, creativity and digital editing mastery.

Marshall’s interest in photography ignited along with a large section of the Bitterroot Forest during his first summer as a Missoula Smokejumper. Taking photos was a hobby until a brief stint in Portland, Ore. in 2008, where he was introduced to fashion photography. With the economy tanking and few jobs available, he jumped at the chance to advance his skills by working as an assistant for commercial photographers. The experience was an eye opening education into the world of film and production.

As his personal photography style developed, Marshall’s focus gravitated toward portraiture, landscapes and fashion—atypical choices for a guy who jumps out of planes into forest fires and busts avalanches in winter as a Bridger Bowl ski patroller.

His work is infused with realism, and his candid and multi-dimensional images often have an intimate and voyeuristic quality. Many pieces are self-described as ‘edgy’ and at times ‘slightly creepy’. They have the capacity to stir emotion and create conversation.

Currently, Marshall is focused on working with commercial advertising clients and is considering showing his work at local galleries. He has recently built a professional studio off his home in the Gallatin Valley, and hopes this creative space will help him bring more of the ideas stored in his mind to reality.

See more of Jon’s work and view prints available for purchase at

Meg: “After I began shooting in my new studio, I decided to do a series of counter culture portraits—capturing images of people that have a different outlook on what is ‘normal’. This was a good education on breaking stereotypes for me—the models I shot are every bit like you and me. I love the edginess of this image—her bright eye makeup and tattoo ink. Her facial expression draws the viewer in. There is drama, beauty, dark and light all in the same image.”

Butch Cassidy: “I have an ongoing Halloween series that has produced some of my favorite images. It started when I brought some studio lights to a Halloween party, set them up in front of a mossy fence, dragged over a log for a seat and gave people a few hours of party time to get into character. I’m convinced Butch Cassidy was sitting in front of my camera that night. I love how the light catches his eye and the dark shadow crosses his face.”

Track Star:
“I shot a series focused on capturing portraits of athletes in their environments. Many of my photos become a success through collaboration between my models, my production crew, my camera and me—we all bring something to the image. During this shoot I mentioned that I wanted to get a ‘finish line’ shot – my model dropped to his knees and threw down with ‘Olympianesque’ energy. Together we were able to create an impressive image.”

Terlingua, Texas: “I’ve been working on my landscape series since 1998. It is my own way of documenting my experiences and telling the stories of the places I’ve been. I was assigned to a fire management team in Big Bend National Park in spring 2011 and took thousands of photos during my stay. This image captures the pure grit of the rural desert landscape around Terlingua, a cinnabar (mercury) mining town that once boomed and has fallen into decay. It was 118 degrees Fahrenheit outside when I took this photo, hot enough to melt the soles off your boots.”

Self Portrait: “I was living at a house in Portland with this old junk car in the garage. In this image I was going for a ‘James Dean’ sort of feeling—capturing the glory days of this car before it was abandoned under plywood and old tires. The final image is a ‘composite’, a combination of seven different images.”

Tram Car: “A few years back, I entered a photography competition and won an editorial spread in a Portland based fashion magazine. I had a full production team for this shoot—makeup, models, stylists—and one seven-minute ride on the aerial tramway at Oregon Health and Science University. I shot 20 images and ended up one that popped. This image works because it has a lot of creative energy but is also very clean at the same time.”

The Outlaw Partners is a creative marketing, media and events company based in Big Sky, Montana.

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