Aurora artist pushing artwork from film to still

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AURORA | In many ways, Mark Visser’s photography is a reflection of himself.

Nearly all of Visser’s prints, many of them displayed in the crannies of Jubilee Roasting Company in Aurora, depict a minuscule life form traversing a grandiose piece of earth somewhere in the high alpine of Colorado or British Columbia, Canada.

In one shot hanging between two leather couches in Jubilee’s lounge area, a neon speck squirms up a jagged splinter of stone in the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area. Only after a sober squint is the blood-orange pinprick revealed to be a rock climber hovering alone amid an ocean of granite. The magnitude is emphasized by the nearly five-foot-wide canvas on which the image is printed.

“I love how it gives you perspective,” Visser says of the colossal print. “That wouldn’t really work on a phone because the climber would be way too small, but it’s fun as a print because you kind of have to do that double take and you realize how big the wall actually is.”

The bulk of Visser’s portfolio features similarly humbling landscapes, their subjects hidden from the cursory glance. The shots mirror Visser’s demeanor — a diminutive soul housed in an imposing, 6-foot-3-inch frame.

An Englewood native and graduate of Cherry Creek High School, Visser is one of about a half-dozen artists with a studio space in the back of Jubilee, which opened its flagship outpost on Kenton Street in December 2015.

“It’s been really fun, and it’s been encouraging to have other people that are pursuing their own passions and getting started,” Visser said. “And when you feel like giving up, it’s encouraging to have other people there to help you find that encouragement again.”

Jubilee currently houses about six artist studios, according to owner Peter Wanberg.

Visser, a graduate of Azusa Pacific University outside of Los Angeles, says that he swings by Jubilee two or three times a week to work on his photography business. The rest of his time is spent driving for Lyft and driving to different picturesque locations around North America in search of more Bierstadt-esque locales. He recently returned from a weekend of shooting in Telluride, where he slept in the back of his tan Toyota Tundra pickup. Jubilee employees Peter Wanberg and Austin Coffin helped Visser outfit the back of his truck for sleeping.

After shifting his focus from film to photography, Visser returned to Colorado only six months ago to be closer to family and pursue his passion for Colorado’s vast wilderness. Prior to moving back home, he was pursuing surf photography in Los Angeles, reminders of which are found in the several surf shots still hanging in his studio space in Jubilee.

Going forward, Visser says that he has plans to photograph Colorado’s budding river surfing scene this summer and back country skiing destinations next winter. In the meantime, he’s using local connections to get his name and his art out into the world — he recently arranged for one of his prints to be used in an advertisement for Wilderness Exchange, an outdoor gear shop in Denver.

“But it’s definitely a slow thing to start, especially a thing like wilderness photography,” he says. “There are just so many photographers out there and a lot less need.”

Though still honing his niche, Visser said that he’s focused on pursuing shots that lend themselves to large prints instead of digital images. Most of his shots are directly printed onto slabs of layered birch wood by Classic Wood Prints in California.

He added that he tries to showcase Colorado’s lesser-known walls of rock, the likes of which are well-documented in places like California’s Yosemite Valley, but less so in the Centennial State.

“It’s hard to find the big walls in Colorado because they’re harder to get to, so I think fewer people know about them,” he says. “So I think it’s fun for people to realize that, oh, there are these huge, massive granite walls right here in Colorado.”

This is the first installment in an ongoing series about the artists of Jubilee Roasting Company.