Written by Henry Culvyhouse.

The old adage goes, a “picture is worth a thousands words.”  However, for one Huntington photographer, it isn’t the words he tries to capture—it’s the magic of the moment.

We all know the feeling. We see something intriguing and snap a picture only find out when we look at the resulting image that the inspiration and feeling of being wonderstruck has somehow lost its luster.

Jesse Thornton, the owner of ReflectionInAPool.com, said he strives to record the everyday things that most people pass by without noticing. Using swirling stars in the night and dilapidated gas stations and forgotten buildings, Thornton’s pictures turn them into works of art.

The first snow in Huntington, West Virginia of 2017 hits Pullman Square, the fountain and streets adorned with Christmas decorations.

And according to Thornton, it isn’t easy. “Most of my photos are meticulously planned and rarely happen by accident,” he said. “My photograph of a snow-covered Pullman Square featured on DowntownHuntington.net’s Christmas greeting is no exception,” Thornton said. “That shot was literally two years in the making.”

“It sounds silly, given how simple the shot looks, but I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get a good shot of falling snow in downtown for two years,” he said. “Last year we didn’t get much in the way of snow, and the previous year I just couldn’t get a shot I was happy with.” So when snow fell earlier this month, Thornton said he was more than ready for that perfect shot.

While he goes through phases, one recurring theme in his work has always been the night sky—a fascination he discovered as a child. Growing up in Point Pleasant, just an hour up Route 2 from Huntington in rural Mason County, Thornton said it wasn’t a problem to look up and see the twinkling Milky Way galaxy in his own backyard.

“There’s something to be said about being outside under a starry sky…maybe it’s perspective, but it feels necessary for the human experience,” he said. “Most of us in West Virginia are fortunate to live in a place dark enough where we can still see thousands of stars without the aid of a telescope.”

The southern core of the Milky Way above the highlands of West Virginia from an overlook of the small communities of Woodrow and West Union, a lone star gazer rests on the hood of a car, glancing up at the night sky.

Thornton feels strongly about the ability to see the night sky. “That is bound to change unless we rethink our strategy of how we light the world.” Light pollution—the dimming of the night sky due to artificial lighting—won’t stop Thornton from continuing his work.

“I’ll still be photographing our night skies and hopefully inspiring others to look up. I’m not deluded enough to think that I can cause a change with my pictures, but you never know.”

Thornton doesn’t always keep his lens pointed up—he likes to look at the world around him, too. While written off by most people, Thornton said he loves photographing old barns, hospitals, and schools. “There are reasons to appreciate them as they are in nature and some of them are worth preserving,” he said. “If they’re not directly harming anyone or impeding development, why not keep them around for posterity?”

Although the bulk of Thornton’s work focuses on natural settings, he said he finds just as much inspiration in the “big city elements in his back yard.” And while Huntington isn’t New York or Chicago, it is a city nevertheless with many of the same attributes just on a smaller scale. “The traffic, the neon lights, and the tall buildings; all make great subjects,” he said.

Thornton’s work can be purchased at the Third Avenue Art Gallery across from the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, The Red Caboose in Heritage Station, at Tamarack in Beckley, and online at www.reflectioninapool.com. You can also reach him on Facebook and Instagram.

See more of Jesse Thornton’s work below.


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