Photography by

Jason Olshefsky


I was born in Schenectady, NY around the time when people were moseying around on the moon. I had an average fascination with photography at an early age and started taking photos with my Mickey Mouse 126-film camera. Later I "upgraded" to a 35mm camera that was free with some magazine subscription and took some pictures with that.

In 1988 I moved to Rochester, NY to go to the Rochester Institute of Technology and have stayed ever since. Although RIT has a respectable college of photography, I opted instead for a more pragmatic path as a computer programmer. In college I experimented a bit with photography using a snapshot 35mm camera, but I was consistently disappointed with the results. Around 1994, I got a little more serious with a Pentax K1000 with a 28mm-70mm f4 lens. I continued using color film throughout, and experimented with long exposures and color correction filters. I was pleased to have made a successful image from a cold night in January 1996 of an atmospheric effect known as "diamond dust" where man-made light sources reflect off flat ice crystals to give the illusion of columns of light streaking into space.

After that, I began exploring photography on an artistic level. I have added another camera body to my arsenal: a Pentax ZX-7, and several more lenses including a 75mm-300mm autofocus zoom, and a 50mm f1.4 (a fully-manual screw-mount lens with an adapter) which is my favorite for band photography do to its fast speed.

Looking back at my images, I found that there were distinct themes that ran through my images. Some were obvious, such as pictures of performances or those of architecture, but there were also some which were more subtle. Below are the themes in my work and some examples of each.


I have enjoyed live music performaces from about 1998 to the present. One of my most prolific photographic endeavors is to capture color images of such performances. I enjoy the challenge of using existing light—typically stage lights which are incandescent lights of varying colors. Most of the time, the lighting changes continuously throughout a performance, and the lights are often quite dark for anything but the fastest film. I started using a flash with a zoom lens to capture candid close-up shots of the performers as well. My ultimate goal is to be able to capture images that represent what I experience at a performance.

Performance by the band Dream Engine at Spot Coffee in Rochester, NY
Flowers Dance to Dream Engine


The first subtle theme I discovered was one I like to call "uneasiness." I was fascinated by images from Garry Winogrand such as in his compilation, The Man in the Crowd: The Uneasy Streets of Garry Winogrand and although I greatly admire his work, I am exploring a slightly different theme.

I created a number of ways to explain what I thought I was trying to do. When I shoot, I look for scenes which produce a feeling of uneasiness in myself—perhaps an instinctive fear response which I don't have conscious access to—and I try to capture the scenario accurately enough so the image itself can recall that feeling. I sometimes explain this theme by starting from the image and suggesting that the viewer subtract out all the elements which are familiar, and what is left is the uneasyness. When I selected images for the "Serotonin," I said that the images capture the fleeting glimpses of hallucinations experienced when one is overtired and high levels of the brain chemical serotonin are being produced.

In all, these images produce a primitive feeling of danger and a cause for heightened awareness in myself and I am interested to see if that is true in others as well.

Monument in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York
Sixty-Three and One

Crosswalk signs appear on opposite sides of a traffic light pole.
Walk Anyway


Occasionally, I will attempt to capture the feel for a location. I concern myself with trying to accurately reproduce the feeling of space. I am more interested in capturing a mood or a personality than I am in capturing the entire experience. My goal is that if a viewer of the image were to visit the subject location that they would immediately recall my image as their most similar experience.

Interior of the City Hall in Rochester, NY
Inside City Hall

Interior of Tonic nightclub in Rochester, NY
Tonic Bar and Tender

Pretty Things

I think all photographers attempt to capture the extremes of the human experience, particularly the positive ones. I'm no different and will occasionally take pictures of "pretty things" if the mood strikes me.

High Falls, Rochester, NY
Icy High Falls

Sunrise over Irondequoit Bay near Rochester, NY
Irondequoit Sunrise

Images and text copyright ©2002-2004 by Jason Olshefsky. All rights reserved.