Mark Regester takes the unconventional approach when it comes to outdoor photography: He looks for what he’s not looking for.
“I don’t want to go looking for something specific. When you’re looking for something specific, you’ll miss what it is you’re really looking for. Sometimes what you want to find are the things you’re not looking for,” explained Regester, whose outdoor photography will be on exhibition at Gallery Zeke in Steelville during the month of October.
The California-born photographer now lives in the developing Cherokee Street art district with his wife and two children. His photography primarily focuses on subjects in the urban or rural landscape that are in a state of decay or disuse, although he is quick to point out that he works with no real prescribed method or subject matter in mind.
“I just know what I like when I see it,” he said. “It speaks to me on some level. I’m captivated by the strangeness of the world we live in, the things we see every day—especially when those things seem out of place in nature. Driving around, if you’re really looking with open eyes, you’ll find things that are that just shouldn’t be, things in our everyday world that don’t belong—and yet, we don’t pay them any mind because we’ve grown accustomed to their oddity or we’re just too busy with life to pay it much attention. Those are the things that I find interesting, which probably is a sign of me being a weirdo.”
Regester has done his fair share of “driving around” in Crawford County. He spent about three weeks in August as the Steelville Arts Council artist in residence, living in a small cottage that the arts council has remodeled for visiting artists. Armed with a Nikon digital camera and an Apple laptop, he spent three weeks documenting places and things in Crawford County. He spent time in Bourbon, Sullivan, Cuba, Steelville, and just about any place he could find with a proper name on the county map.
“It was a more productive experience than I ever could’ve imagined,” Regester said of his residency in Steelville this summer. “It was fantastic just being able to wake up in the morning and get straight to business. I’d get up every morning, make a pot of coffee, and then get out a county road map and start mapping a drive someplace. I never really knew ahead of time where I might end up, because I might change the route along the way or make a detour to see something new. I wanted it to be a completely organic process, and the work developed on its own as I was driving around the county and seeing things I’d never seen before.”
The secret to Regester’s plan seems to be his willingness to have no plan, although it does help that he has a keen photographer’s eye for what stands out in the landscape: an old signpost, a broken-down truck, a doll’s head by the side of the road.
“The important thing is to never get stuck in a rut,” he explained. “Some days, I’d hit Steelville on foot to see what I could find. Other days, I’d look at a map and drive to a specific destination point. And sometimes, I just drove around from one town to another and went where the road took me. I got to know this area pretty well. Some days I came back with lots of good stuff; some days I came back with nothing. That keeps it organic, not knowing what is going to work and what won’t. Just going out there and doing it—that’s what I find exciting. It’s a new experience every day in the world.”
After long days and many miles clocked on local roadways, Regester’s evenings were spent at the artist cottage, sifting through, cropping, and editing photos. A selection of those photographs printed on metal paper will be on display at Gallery Zeke in October. All of the photos were taken in and around Crawford County during Regester’s summer residency.
The opening reception for Regester’s show, which is titled “Interstate Heart,” will take place at Zeke’s on Saturday, October 5 at 7 p.m. There will be refreshments and music at the event. The show will run through October, with the gallery having hours open to the public every Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment.
“Interstate Heart” refers to I-44 as the living organ that “pumps blood” to all the side roads and smaller highways that drive commerce and travel through mid-Missouri. Regester described the show as “a visual road trip, like seeing strange postcards from a drive through county back roads.”
In addition to a selection of photographs taken locally, “Interstate Heart” will feature a short film shot and edited by Regester during his time in Crawford County. The film will be played on a continuous loop and projected onto a blank gallery wall. It includes original music composed by Brandon Johnson.
“Hopefully, we’ll turn it into a fun, festive night where people can meet new people,” said Regester. “I just want it to be a party. I know there will be some friends of mine coming out from the city for it, so hopefully, new connections will be made between St. Louis and Steelville people.”
Editor’s Note: Mark Regester shot all of his digital photography in Crawford County, including a 13-minute film, using a Nikon D7000. The original metal prints on exhibition at Gallery Zeke will be available for purchase. For more information about the “Interstate Heart” show, follow the Gallery Zeke, Steelville Arts Council, and Mark Regester Photography pages on Facebook. Also, be sure to check out the websites dothejerk.wordpress.com and steelvilleartscouncil.org for further information about Regester’s photography or the latest arts council news.
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