Jan Bell

” I hope that my work will encourage self-expression in others and stimulate the search for beauty and creative excitement in the great world around us.”
– Ansel Adams

I came across this quote a few years ago – inspirational words that have had a lasting impact on me. Adams’ photographs introduced me to a landscape that I only dreamed of seeing as a young child. They heightened my curiosity to explore the American West. My photographic journey has taken me to these landscapes and many others and allowed me to immerse myself in the beauty found throughout North America.

I consider myself an avid adventurer and am most happy when I’m off the beaten path exploring remote locations. I’m particularly drawn to the West and to the shores of Lake Superior – places that renew my soul and that I explore repeatedly. I’m always at peace during my visits, often capturing images for weeks or months at a time. More often than not, the experience is as much about spending quiet time in the outdoors as it is photography. Without one, the other wouldn’t hold much meaning – they are inseparable. During my visits, I feel myself decompress as I immerse myself in the landscape. This connection allows me to interpret my surrounding and capture the images seen in these portfolios.

My early work had its roots in the work of the Group f/64 photographers, a small circle of illustrious West Coast photographers. Their work was characterized by sharply focused and carefully framed images, something that I adhered to in my early work. Now I choose to convey an impression of what I observe, rather than document what actually exists if you were to view the same scene. Through the use of long exposures, for instance, water takes on a smooth sinuous flow – no two frames are alike. There is always an absence of human development on the land. Whether it’s a plant, a landscape, or a man-made structure, each photo represents an opportunity to consider the subject – almost apart from the meaning or function of that subject – in terms of the beauty of its form. I focus on an intimate view of the inner folds of a plant, a secluded canyon, a quiet coast or a sand-swept dune, narrowing one’s scope and allowing one’s eye to see only selected elements of the whole.

My work has been recognized with numerous awards and grants, with an Ansel Adams award topping the list for the photo titled Agave. I’ve been published in numerous magazines, and just received notice of a merit award in B&W Magazine – the 12th time I’ve been published in that magazine. I’ve presented several artist talks via Zoom and continue to do so. A couple things rose to the top of my “to do” list when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer in 2017. My #1 goal was to produce a hard-cover portfolio book. After a successful fundraising campaign and three years of work, that goal was accomplished in 2022. The book was printed by Hemlock Printers, Ltd, located in Vancouver, BC – one of the finest in North America. The second goal was to lead a fine art photography workshop. Rock Island Lodge, on the eastern shore of Lake Superior in Ontario, provides a sublime location for the week-long event. This will be the 5th year for the workshop and it’s already half filled for 2025.

I’m passionate about wilderness and the protection of it. A majority of my images illustrate natural beauty that can not be replaced once it’s lost. I feel a need to document the splendor provided by these landscapes before they disappear. I invite you to look through the portfolios on my website. Hopefully you find a connection to them in some way. They are my personal interpretation of a world that has touched me in one way or another – a magnificent world that awaits exploration.