We had the good fortune of connecting with Jason Grooms and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jason, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
“Walk towards the fear.” As a lifelong sufferer of anxiety disorder and an adult on the spectrum, the world is an overly scary place for me, particularly when it comes to interacting with people. Most of my life was spent looking for ways to avoid what scared me, the potential situations that always played out in my head like a 4K widescreen movie. But one day I felt like I needed to take a chance, to see what happened. I told myself I was going to walk toward the thing that was terrifying in my head and see what happened. What I learned is that the fear I’m walking towards is almost always overblown and the movie never plays out for real. I started trying it with other things, my career, my personal life, my art. In almost all cases, the fear wasn’t half as bad as the reality I reached.
My art has always been an attempt to capture things as I see them or the beauty I see in the small or unseen. For most of my life, it was just for me. I enjoyed sharing it with friends and family, but nothing else. When I finally thought about sharing my art professionally and trying to get into a show or entering contests, I was terrified and the internal dialogue started.
“People are going to hate it.”
“There are so many people better than you.”
“No one will pay money for that. It’s just a picture.”
It took a long time but I finally convinced myself to walk towards those fears and see what happened. I was still terrified to do it and worried about all those fears, but I kept my metaphorical feet moving. In the end, none of those things happened when I shared my art. In fact, quite the opposite.
I can’t always talk myself into “walking towards the fear,” but it’s my favorite and still most helpful mantra.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My journey to my art has been a lifelong odyssey for me. For me, photography has always been a means of capturing what I see in the world and taking a moment of mindfulness to be with the scene, no matter what it is. It also gives a semi-permanent platform to the joy and excitement I feel when I see things that amaze or enthrall me every day. When I first started playing around with photography it just clicked for me, but it was just for my personal enjoyment, a hobby as it were. I never put my photos out into the art world or saw them as having value. It was just a personal exercise. It took some good friends and family members constantly pushing me to get me to take the leap. The greatest barrier for me has always been my own fear of judgment. I could handle thorns in my side from a cactus or the occasional bee sting on my temple, but I couldn’t take a “meh” from a perfect stranger. I still struggle with that fear, but over time I’ve developed some tools to help me face them. My mantra of “Walk towards the fear” has been the greatest help. Once I get there, it’s never as bad as my fear.
Generally, my art is about the tiny moments in the world that we almost all miss; a bee drinking from a flower, the complexity of a micro-bloom on a garden weed, the striking colors and patterns of a desert cactus areial. My hope is that people will see my art and begin to see the world around them more. Maybe they’ll stop and look at the flowers growing from weeds on their sidewalk, or spend a minute watching an insect fly from flower to flower. The world is an incredible place and I feel fortunate to be able to share it through my lens.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
San Diego is an amazing city that holds such complexity and diversity of natural life and wonders. If I was taking my best friend around to enjoy the city, it would have to start with a sunrise and morning hike in the quieter parts of Mission Trails Regional Park. Then we’d go to Burger Lounge in Little Italy to eat a real burger and refuel. After that, we’d go on a botanical walk through the streets of South Park where there are as many incredible plants thriving as there would be at almost any botanical garden. After that, we’d get boba at Korea Rose up in Kearney Mesa and walk around Balboa Park for the afternoon, especially when all the vendors are there. Finally, we’d grab some Ballast Pointe and head to Sunset Cliffs to watch the sun sink into the pacific.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve had so many people in my life hold me up and support me, I couldn’t possibly give a shoutout to them all. My kids are my inspiration. They are strong, kind, creative, and compassionate. Being their dad is something I’m grateful for every day. My family has held me up more times than I can count. My cousins and aunts and uncles are the ones who always cheered me on when I ran and held me tight when I needed to stop. My friends Joel Robertson and Peter Neilsen (of the Retro Movie podcast) are my rock and are some of the kindest people I know. I would have never “walked towards my fear” without them. And finally, my mom. She has believed in me my entire life and constantly reminds me to be as kind to me as I try to be to others.
Jason Grooms Photography