sfcomplexEthan Jackson is a visual artist and designer working with light, optics, and image. His projects include immersive optical installations in architecture, still and moving imagery about place and perception, interactive & generative digital works, photography, and video.

His practice has grown from photography to installation, sculpture and beyond, with an underlying interest in optics and perception. Works range from low-technology camera obscura based light-environments without electronic or digital means, to generative and responsive digital video and graphic projects, as well as ongoing series of photographs.

A general theme of perceptual and representational play underlies almost all of his work. Individual projects build further with varied subject matter and unique material, aesthetic and conceptual approaches. The work is broken down here into several broad categories: Architectural Optics, Photography, and Video & Digital works. Some of the themes that cut through these categories are the Camera Obscura, Anamorphics, Landscape, Tabletop work, Generative imagery, and Interactive works.


Architectural Optics includes installations in interior space using light as material, composed or sculpted by simple optics- lenses, mirrors, and the surfaces of rooms. The works are unique to their sites, uniting interior space with the surrounding landscape, and creating contemplative environments where viewers’ perception slowly expands. In this video, an interview about the work Cloister Walk, Jackson talks about the motivations and possibilities of his architectural optical work.

YawnPhotography projects are defined by the practice, technique and limitations of traditional and digital photography. Many of these works can be considered ‘straight’ photography, even when optical and perceptual themes affect the subject matter. They are based on a practice in the discipline of photographic seeing and its unique relationship to the ‘real,’ even when taken apart and reconstituted in experimental ways.

Gaping-Red-Jar-San-Ildefonso-texture-detailVideo & Digital projects use film, video, and digital treatment of imagery to shape aesthetic aspects of the work. Thes installations, sculptural objects and photographic series treat many of the themes and subjects found elsewhere in Jackson’s work. They include reflexive video projections, digital drawings that respond to viewers’ presence, or cellular processing of photographic imagery.


Mount-Hope-Mreadow-Writing-TableThe Camera Obscura is an optical phenomenon named for latin ‘darkened room’, referring to a darkened space with a single opening to the light outside which results in a natural image projection. Ethan Jackson’s works with light often use the camera obscura, extending and multiplying its basic single-aperture form in a variety of ways. He uses the natural projections to reconfigure the recognizable world on interior surfaces in a three-dimensional collage.

Gaping Seed Bowl -San Ildefonso (detail 1)Anamorphics includes works in a variety of media that share the systematic distortion of imagery to privilege or challenge certain points of view both in the literal sense of perspective, and conceptually. Through the anamorphic technique, imagery is squeezed, bent and distorted until it’s representation content is lost. Finding the right view pops it back into a representational role, allowing a sense of the uncanny and a strange tension in images.

Mars (3)Landscape, be it imaginary, psychological, or physical land form, appears throughout Jackson’s work in variety of roles. The containment of a vast view of the world within an object or an image is mysterious and powerful, finding expression in landscape photographs traditionally conceived, in ethereal projected apparitions of horizon and sky or implied within the microcosm of the tabletop still-life.

PearsThe Tabletop is a conceptual space built on the traditions of still-life. Articulated mainly through photographs, the microcosm of the tabletop is populated by things and images of things, figures and images of figures, in a kind of three-dimensional collage made for the camera. The works are about the narrative interactions and relations between levels of representation, imagery, and ‘real’ space.

Rounds-Projection-detailGenerative & Interactive projects use digital processing, computational math, and automated code to transform imagery or make it responsive to environments and viewers.