Sand: Written on, rewritten, smoothed over … to paraphrase Margaret Atwood. To some, it’s a canvas upon which other things are created. For Jonah Allen, it is art itself.
Allen’s latest photographic obsession begins and ends with those small quartz particles that the Emerald Coast is so well-known for.
“Photographs of sand are interesting to me because you’re seeing what occurred the night before, the tidal patterns,” said the Georgia-born photographer. “Sand is a medium that leaves a visual trace of what’s come before you. We can see the passage of time in a singular moment.”
But, sand is not all that appeals to Allen. It was the water that was his first love.
Allen grew up in Atlanta, but spent summers vacationing along 30A. Living in a landlocked area, he enjoyed the getaways to the beach, where he could indulge in surfing. He quickly discovered that photography could help him cope with missing the water when he’d return to Atlanta.
Armed with a friend’s underwater camera, Allen began capturing images of water and light in the area’s coastal communities.
“It gave me a way to cope with not being at the beach. I could look at these pictures and feel the same kind of way I felt when I was surfing the waves,” he explained.
In due time, Allen found himself studying art and marketing at the University of Georgia. After graduation, he spent time chasing waves in farflung locations — his camera never far from his side.
In 2018, his wanderlust temporarily quenched, he moved to Florida full-time. You can find him on the beach before the sun rises and the sand has been disturbed, capturing that delicate balance between water and light and the history of the sand from the evening before.
A secondary photo series of interest to Allen is a collection based on the outfalls of the coastal dune lakes, shots that offer unusual perspectives on this unique natural occurrence. He captures these not through drones, but by rent — and subsequently, hanging out of — helicopters.
“The best part, selfishly for me, is how therapeutic it is to be out there on the water and have these nice moments of solitude,” Allen explained. “But, at the same time, I get to take those moments and share them with other people.
Allen said he hopes one of the byproducts of his work is helping other people care more about our waterways and environment by experiencing it through his eyes.
“That’s part of my mission, to get people to experience what I get to experience.”
His favorite moments, though, are still when he’s in the water, up close and personal with the beauty of water and light, capturing the peaks of the waves, when the timing and the place is just right.
Today, Allen specializes in large-format pieces to adorn buyers’ walls. His work in being featured in galleries throughout the southeast, from Dallas to New Orleans to Naples. He is also working on a coffee table book.
“To have my work, finally, hung across the wall from some of my biggest inspirations, these modern masters, it’s just fulfullment. Like, people actually like my work,” Allen said. “It’s validation. It’s really cool.”
You can view more of Allen’s work and connect with him here.