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Artist of the Month - May 2004

Capturing Fuller Photography
by Annabelle Numaguchi

In the past, the name Jon G. Fuller, Jr. made me think Dentist. Now when I hear his name, I think Color. Travel. Wildlife. Photography.

If a photograph captures only one facet of reality at a time, Fuller is an album of different qualities and images. He is a wildlife observer, attaining a B.S. in Zoology from Brigham Young University. He is a dentist, receiving his D.D.S. from the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is a former Air Force man, spending thirteen years living around the globe in places like England, Guam and Panama. But, above all, he is a visual person and an artist, reflected in his choice of profession and his photography.

His dental office doubles as a showcase gallery of the vibrant cultural and natural images he has captured over the last three decades. Photos depicting busy Hong Kong streets and misty Peruvian ruins are reflections of Fuller’s love of travel. Portraits of weathered Indonesian faces reveal his interest in different cultures, particularly those of the developing world. Pictures of poison dart frogs displaying vivid colors that leap out of the frame speak of the photographer’s continuing fascination with the natural world’s palette and creations.
Considering how long photography has been a passion for Fuller, it’s no wonder his camera has covered such a variety of subject matter. Self-taught, he developed his interest as a child without developing the photos. In college, he took a photography course and started pursuing his interest in earnest.

Fuller describes himself as a visual person, reflected in the images he captures. Color and light play important roles. The photo of a cloud-covered Machu Picchu with wild orchids in the foreground exemplifies his play with those two elements of photography. The image is saturated with various shades of green, each reflecting a different texture. Glistening leaves ranging in color from jade to black frame the composition. The fuchsia orchids jump off the page in their vibrancy, especially with a background of soft emerald fuzz forming the terraces of the Mayan ruins. Although the image seems shrouded in mist, enough shadows appear on the terraces to set them in relief from one another, giving the photo even more dimension and depth.

Playing with light is a challenge Fuller enjoys. He displays his talent for working with natural light in his image of Balanced Rock, a photo reminiscent of the work of Tom Till, both a friend and influence of Fuller‘s. The copper rocks glow with a warm intensity in contrast to the cooler colors of mountain silhouettes and pale blue sky. The low-lying clouds reflect a pink tinge that helps the almost-full moon stand out in its whiteness and focus the viewer’s attention.

Along with landscapes, Fuller enjoys shooting close-ups, also known as macro. He captures still-life, portraits and wildlife in more detail that the naked eye generally has time to record. The image of a Balinese woman wearing a yellow turban fills the frame of one photo. The dark eyes in her weathered face look out into a far off distance beyond what the viewer sees, giving an emotional depth to the image.

Another example of Fuller’s comfort in capturing living things at close range is the series of vibrantly colored photographs hanging in a special room of his dental office. The photographs depict deep-hued glistening frogs, whose actual size is not much bigger than a thumbnail, in various arrested poses on plant life of contrasting colors. In the room, various aquarium-like habitats beading with moisture house these miniscule South American frogs, evidence of another hobby Fuller has thrown himself into.

One photo shows a Prussian-blue poison dart frog, eying the viewer menacingly, lightly resting his padded forefoot on a brilliant yellow petal. Fuller admits that it took “several hours over several days” to capture this perfect pose when the subject matter is both so tiny and so restless. Fuller has obviously mastered the virtuous and necessary skill of patience that is so necessary in both photography and cosmetic dentistry.
In a photo depicting the opening vent of a conical Triton trumpet shell, Fuller also shows his adeptness at manipulating studio lighting for a radiant effect. The brown and white markings of the shell are transformed into glowing amber, sienna and ivory as the light behind the shell penetrates through. The subject is surrounded by a uniform black background, creating a chiaroscuro effect of making the shell appear like it is floating out of the frame.

The magic Fuller captures in these images comes from his artistic ability to manipulate the camera to see the subject as he envisions it. He uses regular 35mm film cameras with interchangeable lenses that he packs in a thirty to forty pound pack. Eschewing the traditional darkroom, Fuller converts the film directly into a digital format and prints from a computer, where the “negatives“ can be easily stored.

Fuller took the challenging step of crossing over from amateur to professional photographer through a lucky turn of events. While in Panama, he came across Merlin Tuttle, a renowned photographer for National Geographic. Tuttle gave Fuller advice on the craft as well as how to market the results. Tuttle cautioned Fuller that photography is an expensive hobby, “a black hole in which to throw money into,” unless he started selling the images.

Fuller published his first professional photo in National Geographic, January 1983. The full-page photo layout depicts a Basilisk Lizard skimming across water upright with it long spindly tail and dorsal sail soaring behind it. The photo captures the details of the reptile vividly while also capturing the speed and fluidity of its motion. Below the main picture are smaller insets of the lizard in other positions.

Entering one of the most prestigious magazines in the world on a first attempt is a testament both to how good a photographer Fuller is and how fortunate. He smiles while he facetiously describes his career as, “I started at the top and worked my way down.”

Fuller has since sold his photography around the globe. He has been published over 300 times. His photos are carried by three agencies worldwide; Orion Press in Tokyo, Hutchinson in London and Natural Selection in the U.S. Besides his brightly-lit dentist office, the easiest place to view, and purchase, his images is on the web at

Pinning a label on Fuller as a photographer is as difficult as pinning one on him as a person. He is many things; among them Dentist, Traveler, Husband and Photographer. He is also a master at color, composition, lighting, macro, landscape and, above all, capturing visual beauty.

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