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Views of Margaret Jackson,
Sedona Photographer


by Karen Reider

Pavorotti thrills with his voice. Anne Rice chills with her words. Shakespeare breathes life into the theater. Margaret Jackson, Sedona's resident photographer, takes you to far away places - with her lens.

For the past 10 years, Jackson has made a home amongst, and with the help of, the red rocks of Sedona. Her magnificent photos of Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte, to name a few, adorn greeting cards sold throughout the area.

Her love of photography began at 19 while attending the University of Denver. She was dating a fellow student of graphic arts at that time and invited him to a family gathering celebrating Jackson and her sister's birthday. At the party she asked if she could use his 35 mm camera to take a few shots.

She delighted in the outcome, and it wasn't long before a camera became a permanent part of her life.

At 20, Jackson bought her first Minolta. Unlike most cameras today, it didn't have a built-in light meter. Having to use a chart to figure out the light left plenty of room for trial and error. Jackson recorded every single picture she took, what the light conditions were, and what F-stop (lens setting) she used.

At 24, she decided to leave her home in Colorado and set off for life in California. Secretly, she didn't think she'd last more than six months, but life in the Bay area quickly captured her. Working a 9-to-5 job as a graphic artist sustained her and taking photographs fulfilled her.
It was 27 years before the call of Sedona would beckon. Jackson had a meditation teacher who often brought people to Sedona for obvious reasons. She was never able to go with them but consistently heard enthusiastic reports of Sedona's distinctive beauty. No one had ever brought back pictures of the red rocks however, so she didn't have a clue what it actually looked like.

In the summer of '89, after a trip back to Colorado, she decided she would visit Sedona on the way back. Making reservations at a Bed and Breakfast, Jackson arrived on a very hot July afternoon.

After driving around a bit she headed for legendary Boynton Canyon. Hiking far into it, she visited the impressive medicine wheel that once graced that land. As she was walking back, Red Rock Fever was already making its way into her blood.

She grabbed a newspaper and began looking at homes for sale. Believing it was just her love and interest in new homes, she didn't think too much about it. Before long, she was meeting a local realtor in the Village of Oak Creek to look at some Neal Klein spec homes. As she stood in the middle of the home, she heard herself say, "I think I'm going to buy this house!"
Before she knew it, Jackson was putting money down on it as if it was her plan all along. The realtor, who wasn't quite as sure as she was, told her that if she changed her mind once she was back in California, he would refund her money. Evidently he had seen this kind of behavior before with less tenacious people than Jackson.

She decided on her way back that if anything went wrong at all, if there were any obstacles, she would take that as a sign and stay in California. So, she returned on a Sunday. . . Put the house up with a realtor on Monday. . . Had open house on Tuesday . . . and two buyers for full price by Thursday!

On Friday, Jackson said "Well, I guess I'm moving to Sedona."
In December of '89, she was here to stay. She knew she wanted to do her photography full-time and had a plan to make it work. The red rocks were covered in snow and her first pictures reflected the magnificent beauty that time of year presents.

Scrambling around the rocks with camera gear and her new born enthusiasm, Jackson was armed with all she would need to set her dream in motion. She developed a clean, simple, decorative border for her 3 1/2"x5" prints, which she still uses to this day. Having patience and determination, she proceeded through the next three seasons, shooting and collecting breathtaking photographs she would use on her greeting cards.
During this time, she kept incredibly busy with her new home as well. Jackson loves and takes pride in the landscaping of her domicile, surrounding herself with greenery and flowers - not an easy task in the desert climate of Arizona.
In the latter part of 1990, Jackson solicited her first client, Barbara Rycus of Rycus Stationers in the Village of Oak Creek. A bit shy and unsure of herself she still managed to make a sale. Once you have seen Jackson's photographs, it is easy to understand why Rycus was eager to carry them.
That first year, Jackson grossed a whopping $700. But, it would take more than a lack of money to discourage this woman. "It takes a lot of tenacity to make it here," she affirmed. "But I have a good product that I work really hard at and eventually it paid off."

Jackson sells more and more of her cards, prints and newly created Sedona screensavers (for computers) every year. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is her biggest customer. The little gift shop there creates one third of all the business Jackson does in Sedona.

Several years ago there was a fire at the Chapel. After it was repaired and a gift shop was built, Deacon Bob wanted Jackson's photo greeting cards to sell there. He had seen one of her Chapel pictures in Somerset Stationers and called her to see if she was interested.

At that time Jackson had just three photos of the Chapel. Once again she set out to create an awe inspiring collection of photos that adorn many of the greeting cards available in the gift shop today. She believes she must have the largest selection of Chapel pictures ever taken.

Like her life, Jackson likes to keep her photography simple. She doesn't use many lenses, nor many cameras. Preferring her old Nikon FE, which hasn't been made since 1982, she recently acquired a Nikon FA (exited 1986). She favors the use of manual cameras because they give her more control and freedom in her shots.

Double exposures are another reason manual cameras work well for her, and anyone who has seen their notable beauty can understand why. While only one out of 200 double exposures will make there way to cards or prints, Jackson is not easily discouraged. Currently she is sitting on a roll of millennium full moon shots that she is methodically shooting scenery over. She claims it's "all a crap shoot," but I'm sure they are something we can all look forward to.

Over the past 10 years, Jackson has taken over 30,000 negatives and 10,000 slides. Just 100 of them grace her modest product line. She has kept her business small, preferring to do it all herself, but this has not kept her from prospering.

Recently she has combined efforts with Larry Brush and created a magnificent screensaver series. Boasting 133 pictures, 104 of Sedona and 29 of the Grand Canyon, computer users are gracing screen with these exquisite images

Fans of the Red Rock Review have been oohing and aahing Jackson photos on the cover of the paper since its inceptions. No one seems to tire of the breathtaking selections.

Her biggest challenge these days is keeping herself inspired. "There are just so many pictures one can take of the same scenery before they being to look the same," she claims. While she never loses site of the incredible beauty we lucky residents see on a daily basis, she is always seeking new inspiration. "It seems that no matter how many new photos I take, the old stand-bys of the famous rocks sell the best."

It's easy to imagine why this is so when we remember what it was like the first time we set eyes on Cathedral Rock - one of the most photographed places in the United States.

Still the scenery remains her favorite expression of photography and she doesn't have any interest in shooting anything else. Surrounding herself, her home and her life with art, sculpture and natural beauty is a constant. She delights her friends with occasional slide shows, set to music on a large screen in her home but has no plans to take this commercially.

So, what's next for Margaret Jackson? She smiled slyly when I asked. She tells me she is laying low right now, patiently waiting for new inspiration to take hold of her. I couldn't help but feel she had something up her sleeve she wasn't divulging. Certainly it doesn't concern her fans; we have plenty to look at while she decides.

Jackson's work is sold throughout Sedona in such fine establishments as Swift Photo in Uptown, Old Pueblo West, Sedona Arts Center, Chapel Gift Shop, Enchantment, Coffee Pot Restaurant, Robert Shields, Sedona Market, and many others.

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