Local photographer celebrates Stevens Point culture through art
By Taylor Hale
PORTAGE COUNTY – Some see photography as a tool to capture a moment, but Stevens Point artist John Hartman sees it as a way to shape light and celebrate local culture.
Hartman has run Contemporary Photography in the city since 1974. The nationally recognized photographer started his business the same year he graduated from SPASH and has been honing his skills ever since.
About 10 years ago, Hartman got bored of taking standard senior portraits and wedding photos and decided to look for a way to capture Stevens Point’s spirit.
“Around 2008, the Riverfront Art Center asked me to do a show,” Hartman explained. “Instead of showing photos of the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty, and these things other people have seen but had no connection to, I decided to get some photos that showcase the city.”
Hartman utilized digital photography techniques, taking sweeping panoramas of city sights like the Clark Street Bridge, Point Brewery, and other popular locations. He would “stitch” several photos together, creating stunning landscapes.
Hartman has teamed up with a UFSFA Gold Medal figure skater for his most recent project, and his work is leaving audiences begging for more.
“Some of the photos have hundreds, if not several thousand of (online) views,” he explained.
SPASH Junior Alyssa Olson and her mother, Krista, met Hartman on the downtown Stevens Point ice rink on a chilly negative 7 degree morning on Jan. 28 to capture shots of Olson in action, with Main Street as a backdrop. Their mission was to capture a one-of-a-kind photo that showcased the city and its people.
“We absolutely love the photos. I think they look wonderful, and it’s nice they also showcase our downtown,” Krista said.
Olson is a member of the Crystal Ice and Red Panther Figure Skating Teams. She is a UFSFA Gold Medal holder, a process which takes several years and seven tests to obtain and a title that roughly 10 percent of figure skaters achieve.
Hartman sees his unique photography style as a way to express himself and have fun. He noted that the Olson photoshoot only took around one hour.
“My philosophy in life has always been to find out what everybody else is doing, and don’t do it,”Hartman said. “If you can stay with that mindset, they’ll always be something for you.”
But Hartman’s local roots don’t keep him in Stevens Point. The artists also hosts the John Hartman Marketing Boot Camps, held in Las Vegas for the last 20 years, and has lectured and taught photography classes throughout the nation.
In an ironic twist to Hartman’s life story, the photographer didn’t even own a camera until his senior year at SPASH. He was called into the guidance office in 1973, and told to pick an additional class for his senior year due to the school adding an extra period.
“I literally closed my eyes and put my finger down on a piece of paper, and it landed on photography, so I took the class,” Hartman said.
He was instantly hooked and began learning as much as he could about the art form.
Hartman said that Stevens Point offers artists a calm and receptive community, and is a place he is proud to showcase through his work.
“Stevens Point is just such a great place to be. It’s just the right size, in my opinion,” he said.
“There are just enough people where you can create a culture. There’s a wonderful arts section, we’ve got great restaurants. It’s a pretty neat place to be.”
John Hartman offers photography services through Contemporary Photography. He also provides light painting services and teaches classes at Gallery Q in Stevens Point.
For more information, visit jhartmanphoto.com.