New photo exhibit on display at Chachalu

02.12.2016 Brent Merrill Culture, Tribal Employees

If you have never looked at ice so closely that you can see the spider web effect in the crystal formations, local photographer and Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Silviculture/Fire Protection Technician Jeremy “Jay” Ojua has and he has the image to show for it.

You can see that particular image yourself at Chachalu’s latest exhibit – “Ili?i: a photographic essay on the beauty that surrounds us.”

Chachalu is the Tribe’s museum and cultural center at 8720 Grand Ronde Road.

The exhibit, which runs through Friday, March 25, features photographs by Ojua and Colby Drake, who is the Silviculture and Fire Protection supervisor for the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department.

Ojua and Drake are not only talented photographers, they are also opportunists. They take advantage of their full-time careers to capture images others don’t have access to and they are always thinking about their next shot.

“I had seen a lot of Jay and Colby’s pictures online,” said exhibit curator and Tribal Artisan Travis Stewart. “A lot of people who live out here tend to take how beautiful it is out here for granted and these guys have a way of putting it out there for you to see the beauty.”

One of the more impressive images in the exhibit is a photograph taken by Drake while on a firefighting mission last year. The image, taken at twilight with stars in the sky, shows the forest fire glowing in the background and a firefighting truck lit up in the foreground.

“I grew up in southern Oregon surrounded by nature,” said Drake. “I was always interested in all of the amazing photographs that I would find in National Geographic magazines as a kid. When given the opportunity to learn about photography, I dove in head first.

“I enjoy spending most of my time being out in nature and the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Whether at my day job doing forestry work or out battling wildfires across the country, I’m always looking for a chance to be outside. Living in Oregon, I have had the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful places in the world and photography allows me to share those experiences and places with others.”

Another of the images on display at the Chachalu exhibit is an extreme close-up by Ojua of a fly sitting at the center of a daisy. One wing on the fly is still and the other shows just enough motion to make it seem poised for takeoff.

Ojua and Drake are not only co-workers, but good friends and each got into photography in the same way.

“Growing up in the rural community of Grand Ronde exposed me to the beauty and wonder of nature at a young age,” said Ojua. “I spent most of my young life hiking and exploring the endless acres of temperate rainforest that surrounded our home.

“As a photographer, I am drawn to taking photographs of the outdoors and its inhabitants, always trying to recapture those things that made me feel a sense of awe and wonder that have come to me so often.”

Both photographers say they feed off of each other’s abilities and knowledge, but they also take pride in seeing things a little bit differently.

“I have always had an interest in photography,” said Ojua. “I always really loved the photos in nature magazines and then having this job puts me in a lot of cool places and it’s so nice to be able to bounce those ideas back and forth.”

“That’s one thing I love about photography – I think Jay and my styles are completely different,” said Drake. “We will literally be standing right next to each other taking the exact same pictures and we both get home and show each other our photos and we’re like, ‘How did you get that?’ It’s completely different than anything I’m shooting. I feel like we complement each other well.”

Ojua and Drake use social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to share their images and Ojua has a website dedicated to his photographs at, which is also the name for his Instagram page. Drake’s Facebook page is Colby Drake Design.

Cultural Education and Outreach Program Manager Kathy Cole said people can get used to having exhibits like this one at Chachalu. She said museum staff members are always looking for ways to keep people visiting the museum and that exhibits like “Ili?i” will spur interest.

“The entire department works on these projects together,” said Cole. “Everybody is really talented and they have a lot of good ideas so we are developing a process to where you can bring your ideas and we can use those ideas to bring more people in. Different ideas will reach different audiences. It’s the plan to continue to do that and have more exhibits constantly. So when one goes down we will be planning the next one.”

Cole said the photographs in the exhibit are all local images and she likes that.

“I think they are all really unique pictures and those two (Ojua and Drake) are really talented. They have a good eye. I just love outdoor photos. People that have come in are really amazed.”

Stewart agreed with Cole on the interest that has been generated since the exhibit opened on Feb. 1.

“I’ve ended up having to hold off on selling pieces in the exhibit because I figured that the people who come to the artist’s reception (5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12) should at least get the chance to see the pictures before they are gone,” Stewart said.