Two years ago, as he stood outside of First and South in Greenport, a “for lease” sign in the window of the adjacent space caught Jeremy Garretson’s eye.
“I remember looking through the window and wanting it to be my gallery,” the photographer recalled of the former Hampton Jitney and Century 21 Albertson Realty offices.
Now, it is.
Mr. Garretson and his wife, Ashley O’Neil, began leasing the space last month and plan to share the space. Ms. O’Neil will run her wedding and event planning business from the office.
“Within an hour of signing the lease, we had paint on the wall,” she said. Neutral gray walls and furniture allow the colors in his landscape photos to pop.
Walking into the gallery is like walking into his Instagram photo feed.
Stunning captures of the North Fork are hung on one side of the space, rivaling photos of dramatic landscapes taken during his travels.
Printed of Fujiflex paper, the prints are mounted to a non-glare acrylic similar to Plexiglas, adding depth to each photo.
“Walking in here and getting the full experience is part of it for me,” he said. And it’s a different experience than viewing them from a phone screen. “I could post this on Instagram,” Mr. Garretson said, pointing to a photo he took last year at Sequoia National Park in California. “But you lose the people in the background, the scale of the trees.”
Mr. Garretson was a founding member of the North Fork Art Collective, but always wanted to see his work grouped together as a collection. His inspiration came from the many small studio galleries he’s seen in other coastal towns, such as Cape Cod. His work frequently appears in The Suffolk Times, most recently for Saturday’s Washington’s Birthday parade.
He wants the gallery to be a welcoming environment with the same laid back feeling. “When I was younger, I remember walking around SoHo and wanting to go into an art gallery but feeling like I wasn’t the right type of person to go in there,” he said. “Everyone is welcome here.”
Mr. Garretson, 35, studied photography and digital art at Stony Brook University and started off by shooting abandoned buildings and exploring urban areas.
Over the next decade, a series of life events led him off course. He struggled with depression and addiction — and his camera gear was stolen.
“I was just in a bad place,” he said.
In 2015, as he got clean, he picked up a camera again.
“It gave me purpose. For the first time in my life, I had something I cared about,” he said.
Though their relationship was new, Ms. O’Neil, 41, supported him and told him they would get through it all together.
“He went from somebody who chased a high in a drug to chasing a high in finding a shot,” she said.
Last year alone, that thrill led him through the Sierras in California, through Canyonlands National Park in Utah and to the remote Faroe Islands.
“I always find the North Fork beautiful and inspiring, but you’ve got to see new things,” he said, adding that he enjoys the challenges of having to hike to get a perfect shot, and get used to different light. “It’s like flexing your artistic muscle.”
Though Mr. Garretson has always enjoyed the outdoors, shooting each dramatic landscape has had a profound impact. “It’s taught me to appreciate nature and conservation,” he said.
Back home, the Southold resident enjoys shooting at the very eastern end of the North Fork.
“I love Orient,” he said. “It’s special. You go across the causeway and it feels like you’re in a different world.”
Eventually, Mr. Garretson would love to teach photography workshops or host lectures at the gallery.
Photo caption: J. Garretson Fine Art Gallery is located at 102 South St. It is currently open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. A March 1 grand opening celebration, in conjunction with the First Friday gallery walk, is planned. (Jeremey Garretson photo)