Self-taught photographer Adam Elkins is an encyclopedia of Columbus’ secretly awesome, atrophied spaces. The 26-year-old campus-area native has spent a lot of time exploring the city’s forgotten areas.
“I used to do a lot of graffiti but I’ve found that photography is a lot easier to do and a lot more legal,” said Elkins, whose art will be on view at Short North Tattoo’s gallery this month. “Columbus has a lot of potential for a bigger city feel. We have a lot of exciting things here.”
Portraits in abandoned buildings and long-forgotten parks around town are some of Elkins’ best work, but his striking, near-illusionary photos of reflections in puddles are the real stunners.
“His work is honest, raw. It stands out because it is clean, not over-processed, if processed at all. It’s easy to see what inspires him in each shot, whether it be the light versus shadow or a reflection or a wallpaper pattern,” said artist Amy Leibrand, curator of CS Gallery’s recent “Exposure” show of mobile photography.
Leibrand sought out Elkins to exhibit work from his Instagram account (@BigManJapan). Despite his international popularity on the social art app (courtesy a feature on the Instagood Tumblr), it was the first time Elkins, who has never taken an art or photography class, even considered showing his photos in a gallery.
“I learned about art from doing graffiti. I learned photography by watching other people and looking at what I like,” Elkins said. “I love exploring.”
The ease of which Elkins’ images tell a story is, indeed, something you can’t teach. It’s like he’s part of the lost landscape himself.
“There’s a ‘don’t give a damn’ approach,” Leibrand said of Elkins’ photos, “yet each shot is beautifully composed. It feels instinctual. It’s his deliberate sense of adventure that pulls me in. I want to be there, I want to be a part of it. His work sucks you into the untold stories of places well past their glory.”
Those places officially have a narrator.