By Gina Malone
Jeffrey Stoner remembers becoming fascinated by taking pictures before he was old enough to start school in his hometown of Harrisburg, PA. “Just after I turned eight, we had an overnight ice storm,” he says. “I vividly remember walking outside, looking up into an ice-covered tree with the sun glistening off the branches and wishing I had a camera. I wanted to capture not only the sight but the feelings I was experiencing.”
Two years later he received his first camera, loved operating it as he had always known he would and has not stopped making images since. In 2003, still in Pennsylvania and working as vice-president of senior living services for Complete HealthCare Resources, he began posting images to a website dedicated to pictures of Harrisburg. “Since the rules confined you to making images within the boundaries of the city, it forced me to be more creative,” he says. A year later a gallery that had seen his images offered him the chance to show his work. His images started selling, leading to more showings in other galleries, and he began teaching photography at Harrisburg Art Association.
Because his job required long hours and lots of travel, he felt limited in the ability to focus on his photography and explore his talent further. “My wife and I talked about it, decided we weren’t getting any younger and I decided to go for it and leave my job to pursue this crazy dream,” Jeffrey says. “So in April 2007 we left our families and great jobs behind, loaded up the truck and headed south.”
Having vacationed in the Smoky Mountains, and explored galleries in Asheville and Waynesville, the northeastern Tennessee area seemed to be the place to be for what he wanted to capture. He created a new portfolio of images to show galleries. “My focus at that time was landscapes and I just loved hiking the mountain trails and making images of the stunning beauty throughout this region.”
His wife Bonnie’s happening upon an article about the Baatany Project on Roan Mountain and suggesting he photograph the goats there inspired his popular Goats of Roan series. The project, on hold at present because of the Pisgah National Forest Plan revision, used goats to try to restore plant growth and diversity on the western balds of Roan Mountain.
“One morning I got up very early, drove in the dark to Roan Mountain and, just before dawn, hiked out on the Appalachian Trail to the Jane Bald area where they were supposed to be grazing,” Jeffrey says. “I not only found the goats, but also discovered the joy of photographing them.”
He printed the images in color, then black-and-white, before discovering sepia-toned black-and-white that captured the feeling he had when he was there with them. “I showed them to my wife and she said they made her smile,” he says. “I thought: they make me smile, too.” He adds images to the series each year, retiring some to make room for the new.
One of the first area galleries to show his work was Waynesville’s Twigs & Leaves Gallery and he has shown his work there ever since. A Twigs & Leaves show planned for October will introduce several new goats to the series.
Stoner’s subjects include wildlife, landscapes and cityscapes. Besides the charming goats, he photographs donkeys, chickens and the Cataloochee elk. “I also photograph steam locomotives,” he says. “That is quite a combination. Last year a gallery was showing my goat and train images together and we came up with a title for the show—Steel Wool.”
To learn more, visit JeffreyStonerPhotography.com and Facebook and Instagram @jeffreystonerphotography. Find Jeffrey Stoner’s work locally at Artisans on Main in Weaverville, Twigs & Leaves in Waynesville and Woolworth Walk in Asheville.