It’s not often that getting laid off from a job turns out to be a good thing, but that was the case for Jonathan Hart.
It was the loss of steady commercial photography work that led him to start leading bike tours and team-building programs for adults, and that work rekindled his love for photography and started him out on a new career in his chosen field.
After high school, Hart spent four years in the Coast Guard and used that time to take a photography course at Loyola University. He subsequently studied at Rochester Institute of Technology and went to work in Chicago, first as a photography assistant, and then opening his own studio.
He moved to Boston where he opened another studio, shooting for advertising agencies, design studios and private clients. He spent 10 years working for Orvis in Manchester and when that partnership ended, he changed direction and began leading Vermont Bicycle Tours and facilitating team-building for Outward Bound Professionals.
Today, the 64-year-old Hart continues his work with Outward Bound and also leads bike tours for Sojourn, which is based in Charlotte. He spent eight years doing commercial work for DR Power and when that work ended, his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in.
Hart now runs two businesses: Amazing Vermont Photography which features his own work and Amazing New England Artworks through which he licenses the work of 13 regional photographers. The latter company has a 110-page catalogue, a sales manager, and eight sales representatives selling cards across New England.
Hart moved to Charlotte a year ago, and one of the benefits of the move is that he can now participate in Vermont’s two annual Open Studio Weekends. He lives in a carriage house but rather than use the downstairs space as a garage, he made it his photography studio/gallery. During Open Studio Weekends, visitors can learn about his creative process and then venture upstairs for a peek at how his photographs look in a home setting.
Hart is also in the process of creating a book of photographs about old tractors, which he hopes will include interviews with the people who have lovingly restored them.
“The photography of Vermont thrills me,” Hart said. “I like to get out in early morning and late evening – the golden hours – to hike the trails and the mountains and look at sunsets and sunrises and bad weather and cows and farmers and tractors. I create photos of Vermont scenes that satisfy my imagination of what Vermont is and hope it helps others do the same.”
It’s that connection that Hart strives for. “If you listen to a piece of music that takes you away and causes you to have emotions or feelings, you want to listen to that music again,” he said. “If I can create an image that causes you to feel something, then I have succeeded.”
Ironically, when Hart worked as a professional commercial photographer he didn’t have any of his own photos on display in his home. “I was pretty passionate about my work and I made a decent income but this is different,” he said. “Now when I watch prospective buyers or people browsing at a big tent show and see them approach my work and their eyes are agape, that’s almost as good as selling a piece. This is a business but it’s also my creative art. It fills my soul.”