Greg Hobson sees Kansas as anything but flat. His photographs don’t showcase weathered barns, sprawling prairies, or rudimentary windmills. Instead, his lense captures what he calls “a different scenic overlook.” It’s the combination of human-made objects and how they interact with the land around them that informs his art. This Friday, a collection of 18 of his photos will be on display at Artworks in an exhibit that he hopes will get people talking about the unsung beauty on the range.
“A few years ago I did a poster for Spirit AeroSystems that shows several big aircraft fuselages shot from up near the rafters of one of Spirit’s large assembly plants,” Hobson said. “The headline reads, ‘Around here, this is what’s known as a scenic overlook.’ It’s what people see at the airport when they arrive to Wichita and that informs their impression of Kansas. That pretty much sums up the spirit of my photography.”
Hobson, 64, is a lifelong Wichitan with a background in advertising. He has worked as a copywriter and creative director for Sullivan Higdon & Sink and other local agencies. He spends more time now working on his own photography.
“My photos often generate conversation and introduce a slightly different way of looking at Kansas,” Hobson said. “Living here, we often don’t realize what is out there to see. Sometimes, it takes some imagination to appreciate. The onus is back on the observer.”
Passersby might discard the kind of indiscriminate landmarks Hobson finds. His subject matters include radiators, torn signs, eroded equipment gears, and discolored, rusted chairs. As targets they’re quite gritty, but placed against the backdrop of nature they establish their own affecting presence.
Hobson said that his “Drive-in Chairs” piece perhaps best exemplifies that sentiment. The photo was taken at a desolate, run-down drive-in movie lot in Medicine Lodge. Two adjoining, discolored chairs face a desolate field with a huge projection screen at its center.
Rather than evoking cinematic nostalgia, the chairs become the main focus and the most fascinating object. The scenery seemingly fills in around them.
“People are drawn to that particular photo, I think, because they realize that they’re the spectators. It’s a picture in a picture in a picture. The viewer is a bystander and sees the chairs where people are watching another picture – a moving one – on screen. Those two chairs also add in a romantic element. People may remember having some good times at drive in just like that one.”
Another engrossing image in the collection is “Carney Ride.” Bright yellow hues of ornate molding complement the bold, red base of a carnival ride piece resting in a truck. Hobson happened upon it in a field near Andover full of other rides “hibernating” off-season.
“That particular piece was the most intense color,” he said. “I was drawn to that vibrant color. The design on that, particularly the molding, is gaudy. It’s so gaudy that it’s cool again.”
Hobson said there’s no science to his process, other than to happen upon interesting objects and go back to shoot them when the lighting is right. Most of his recent works were captured on a Canon 5D Mark III. All are digitally augmented, some to lesser degrees than others. In manipulating the image, he usually aims to push the color or pull it back. He noted that pulling it back often draws a different kind of attention, particularly in images where the sky is prominent.
“My beauty is a little bit different than your beauty, and our beauty as a people in Kansas is a little bit different than beauty in other places,” he said of his artistic message. “I try to show down-to-earth with a few surprises. It’s easy to see something simple on the surface, but if you look harder you’ll see some lasting value.”