John Crow, of Waking Crow Studios, Portrait Party in Grass Valley |

John Crow, of Waking Crow Studios, Portrait Party in Grass Valley

In his portrait photography, John Crow strives to capture a moment of authenticity with his subjects.
Photo by John Crow |


WHO: John Crow and Waking Crow Studios

WHAT: Portrait Party (for 21+ ages). Participate in an evening of creative photography, get a totally unique portrait — with a spirit of fun, mischief and creativity, capture a bit of who you are.

WHEN: 6-10 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Private location in Grass Valley

COST: Participation is $40 per person *Purchase of finished images additional


For most of us, art is something we experience through appreciation, or perhaps, occasionally doing a bit of writing, painting or drawing.

For artists, art is part of an everyday need that fulfills a deep inner calling. Artists are different, and really, in many respects, being an artist is a difficult choice, exposing oneself to criticism, harsh realities when it comes to earning a living and a whole assortment of challenging social implications.

Although John Crow has worked in a number of fields from CAD to computer programming, his calling is to art, and specifically, photography.

Crow remembers his older brother returning from Germany with a camera that opened his 13 year old mind to a new world.

It wasn’t long before John had his own camera and could ride down to the Marina in Martinez to look for interesting textures, found objects and odd perspectives to photograph.

After years of working in technical disciplines, John found himself reorganizing his life priorities, started writing poetry again, and picked up his camera.

“Poetry is like the code behind a possible portrait. I started using portraits as a vehicle for a story that I couldn’t tell in another way.” Crow said. “Creativity has always been the core part of my life. Earning a living is critical, but art is my greatest nourishment.”

Waking Crow Studios

Crow was taking photographs and portraits for friends and then, during an informal shoot of a friend’s band, one of the band members took a call and said “We are here at Waking Crow Studios.”

The name stuck, and more portraits soon followed, including an extensive series of self-portraits.

“Self-portraits came about because in doing self-portraits, I have a place to direct my creative energy — I can imagine or see something in my mind and then make it happen. I always need a creative outlet, so with these two areas of focus, I am always creating.”

In doing portraits for others, Crow takes time to know who he is photographing, and asks his clients to arrive with a collection of their favorite things, the things that really make them who they are.

“I want people to relax within their own worldview,” he said. “I find that doing this brings something out in people that you normally don’t see, something that makes a portrait more compelling.”

For a portrait photoshoot, he prefers to approach it like a social gathering, creating a space where people can relax, experiment with costumes and see what brings up something in them — to get past preconceived notions.

“I aim for something with a soft intention, putting creativity to work without stress,” Crow said. “We maybe will do a dozen shots, then review and maybe do a bit more.”

Crow seeks to go beyond the original, capturing a moment of authenticity. Waking Crow Studios byline “portraits as unique as you” could be seen as the goal of a portrait sitting, a goal Crow has a reputation for achieving.

Part of portraiture is place and John Crow sees himself living in locations where there are other creatives in proximity. “ I first drove through Nevada County in move from the Bay Area to Idaho,” said Crow, “and I thought, wow, I’d like to retire here. Within 2 years I was back, living here full time. It feels right for me.

“Like many artists, I am drawn to the energy of urban environments, but find the lifestyle in cities problematic. Being here in Nevada County, there are many other creative people, and these are people that make interesting portraits.”

For Crow, art is a place of returning to oneself.

Holiday portraits

As people begin to think of the holidays, its worth remembering that the one gift that can’t be bought is the moment, and a photo that captures that moment could be a close second.

Waking Crow Studios is offering a few events to capture individual and group portraits. These informal photo shoots bring together up to 12 participants to relax, enjoy some creative sharing and individual portrait photography.

“I think of these portrait parties as an informal, fun atmosphere where I can get people to relax and capture moments that would be otherwise missed in a formal studio setting.” said Crow.

Guests are encouraged to bring with them the things that define their lives, and maybe even props and costumes that represent parts of themselves that are less available in the everyday setting.

For more information email or visit

Family and group portrait holiday bookings now available!

Note: If this event is cancelled, full refunds will be given within 30 days. No other refunds will be given.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User