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About

About the Artist

My photographic journey started when I was twelve. An obsession with the ability to freeze time had me patiently filling my piggy bank. As the funds collected and the excitement built, the pursuit of a calling had begun. Walking out of that Best Buy with a little box full of pride and purpose, I took my first steps down the path I still walk today.

 

The first look through that viewfinder brought my eye to life and I started to see the world in compositions. It developed into my high school days as the sparks of an obsession were stoked into a fiery passion. As graduation approached there was only one future I saw worth pursuing and that led to the banks of Lake Superior and Northern Michigan University. 

 

College became the creative gym for my eye now entrusted with my future. I entered with a focus on sports photography but the art program quickly broadened my vision, unleashing a creative firestorm that lit my passion ablaze. For four years I worked like a mad scientist, pushing the limitations of my camera, driven by my creative vision searching for its voice. 

 

The real world arrived like a Northern Michigan blizzard and I spent a year lost in the fog. After all the nights spent chasing the northern lights and staring at the stars I never considered setting my sights on one. That is until a crazy idea uprooted me from everything I knew and set me before a new frontier in Colorado.

 

I owe everything to Sarah, the woman responsible for that crazy idea to leave home behind in pursuit of adventure. From the minute I saw her, I knew she was something special but arriving in Denver I realized she was my guiding light. Then she posed the same question I asked myself in high school. If you could do anything, what would you do? So I married her.

Finding My Muse

The summer after my freshman year of college I rode a seaplane deep into the wilderness of Ontario. It landed on a lake so remote the only way in or out was the liquid runway that would be our home. Isolated in a cabin for a week, surrounded by forest too thick to enter, I got very familiar with Lake Abamasagi.

 

My best friend and I spent that week on the water chasing fish and making memories. Every morning, it was our vessel that broke the spell of stillness that befell those hallowed waters in the night. We’d fish until dark, eat our dinners fresh off the line, and fall asleep to the lullabies of the loon.

 

One evening I slipped out to the dock to watch the spell take effect. The moon was rising over the lake being soothed to sleep by the blues deepening in the sky. There was a steady rhythm from the water lapping against the dock, broken only by the metallic echo of a distant loon. The air was brisk but maintained a gentle embrace as if sensing the gratitude I was there to pay. 

 

As I stared at the ripples bobbing in the moonlight, enduring the occasional shiver, I remember the magnitude of the moment sinking in. Reality was not an easy thing to lose but it had yet to cut a path to those placid shores. Basking in the bliss before me, I was present, wise to the fortune bestowed unto me. I savored the lingering light before turning in, preserving the memory so that secluded paradise is never too far away.

 

Long before photography became my passion, I was a student of mother nature. Her outstretched arms were my escape and her embrace provided peace and acceptance. Once the camera became a companion the experiences turned therapeutic. The camera slows time down. It puts me in a meditative state as I study every line, form, and texture of the landscape. With my camera I am present and fully immersed in the blessing of the experience just like that night on the dock. 

 

From the beginning my goal was simple, do what makes you happy. Photography was the obvious choice but fear held me back from choosing my specialty. In the end I had to remember that goal and trust my heart to make the decision. So I stepped up to the base of the Rocky Mountains with my camera and a heart full of ambition and started climbing.

Portrait of Colorado landscape photographer Justin Key

My Eye and Its Vision

When I bought my first camera at the age of twelve I was ecstatic about my new toy and yet it sat idle for weeks before recording its first exposure. The momentous purchase called for a proper christening and I had the patience to wait for inspiration to strike. Then one fateful January morning in Wisconsin the moment finally came. Riding in our family minivan, I had zoned out in the backseat watching the snow covered farm fields fly by when I was overcome by the sudden urge to take a picture. After convincing my Dad to turn around and pull over, I stepped out into the frigid winter air and my eye was born.

 

The photographer’s eye is the inherent voice within every photographer that drives our work. It’s the commander of the camera that determines when to draw, where to aim, and how to shoot. This creative muscle is constantly dissecting the world around us in search of inspiration. Built on photographic knowledge and fueled by creative juices, the photographer’s eye is the intuitive reflex that guides us in the field. Over time it defines our style and with a little push it’ll give birth to the artist within. 

 

Ever since that fateful morning in rural Wisconsin, I’ve been following my eye. It spent years finding its legs like a newborn deer but with trust and patience it learned to run. Amid this evolution it developed a voice with the camera playing the role of interpreter. Deciphering its photographic messages revealed its vision and the more attuned I became the more I started to find my footing as an artist. 
 

The key to my work is clarity. The peace I find in nature allows me to escape the confines of my mind and become conscious. This state of being magnifies the experience, expanding my eye and heightening its ability to dissect the landscape. Like a hawk, it scans its surroundings for organized disruptions in the static, studying every texture and following every line in search of inspiration. Without thought clouding its vision, my eye can reveal the intrinsic beauty in all aspects of the landscape.

 

Rather than chase grandiose scenes or meticulously edit for dramatic effect, my eye seeks to capture the eternal elegance and serenity of nature while preserving its natural beauty. I hope my work encourages people to indulge in the splendor of mother nature more often and to slow down and bask in the blessing of the moment. I hope by highlighting the details of the landscape that we can gain a deeper appreciation for the little things in life to extract as much enjoyment from this expedition as we can. So put your mind at ease, soak up the silence, and revel in the glory of mother earth.

The Work

The work displayed on this website is the best representation of my creative vision that I have produced to date. I’ve always sought to capture the peace of nature but, over time, have learned to use it as a means of expression as well. This gallery represents my vision and interpretation of the natural world and I hope it gives you a unique perspective of this incredible place we call home. 

 

My journey’s origin can be found in the Landscape Gallery. My original portfolio, this collection showcases the progression of my eye with photos dating back to my time in college. While its vision has evolved, the memories it has captured remain consistent. My travels have brought me to some amazing places and the impactful moments I’ve experienced around the world are archived here. The photos preserve the memories, capturing the beauty and emotions found in each location, while the titles provide the soundtrack to match. 

 

After a few years of dedicating myself to nature, the artist within began to emerge along with a desire to deepen my impact. The Long Shutter Project provided a solution for both. This endeavor became the home for my creative obsessions, with each body attached benefitting a cause near and dear to my heart. What began as an outlet for my eye to develop ideas, has evolved into an important avenue for my own creative expression.

 

The Eidolon Series was the first installment in the project. The black and white, abstract series explores the phantom-like forms of falling water. As I grappled with an untimely death, the Eidolon Series grew to represent the unknown journey beyond this life and the universe’s pursuit for balance between the governing polarities. As I dealt with my grief, this series launched the Long Shutter Project with a special dedication that aided the healing process. 

 

Overwhelming inspiration birthed my second series, the Sands Study. The ever changing landscape demanded its own body of work as my eye became infatuated with the subject. The spoils of purgatory, the series seeks to capture the peace within the chaotic world of the sand dunes. Incorporating abstract and minimalist techniques for the first time, the series marked a turning point for my career as my eye found its artistic groove.

 

My most recent series, the Skeletons Series, solidified my status as an artist, stretching my means of expression beyond photography for the first time. The series highlights the forms of dead trees to remind the viewer of our mortality and the eventual demise of our legacy. In order to achieve my vision, digital editing was used to create the silhouettes, demonstrating that I am not bound by the products of my camera to execute my artistic ideas.

The Future

I have no plans for my future.

 

My process has never favored an agenda, it flows with the current of my creative intuition. Creativity thrives untamed, as such, I wait for its call to beckon me to my next endeavor. Idea seeds are always being planted and while some are groomed and shaped, I’m never in a rush to harvest. I can promise that I have a lot more creating ahead of me, that what you see in this gallery is only the beginning. I set out to spend my life doing what I love and I have a lot of breaths left to take and a lot of this Earth left to see.

 

If you like my work, my message, my vision, I recommend joining my newsletter. Anything and everything happening in my world will come to your inbox at the beginning of every month before anywhere else. I may not know where my eye will take me next but my subscribers are the first to know when I get there.

 

Thank you for showing an interest in my work and for taking the time to learn more about me and my creative process. If you ever want to connect, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I would love to speak with you!

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