Missoula Art Beat: Photographer Jane Goffe’s Quiet Moments


In calm moments, we often recognize what is imperative in life and what isn’t. Reflective seconds make us wiser and shed key light on those things both essential and non-essential.

Jane Goffe finds quietude in photography. In her lightly diffused and toned impressionistic landscapes and still life index, she freezes silent characteristics of snowy train depots, bursting grain elevators, and rickety ghost town staircases.

Goffe’s images–stark Missoula railways, poised barnyard and agricultural scenes, and windshield-shattered pickup trucks–express her primary manner of feeling, of communicating, of loving.

Jane Goffe - Missoula Photographer

Photography is her way of not only living apart from strife, but believing in herself, and perpetuating her sharpest visceral memories. She preserves those things with which she has a deep attachment to.

“I like to photograph old clunkers,” says Goffe. “The reason is because I was born in eastern North Dakota, and my father and grandfather owned a Studebaker dealership. My dad worked on vintage and old models. That’s my connection.”

Goffe works with traditional silver gelatin prints, which she custom prints in her own darkroom. All prints are toned and processed to archival standards.

Jane Goffe - Missoula Photographer

Each photograph is mounted on archival, acid-free mat board, signed, numbered and labeled.

“No two of my prints are alike,” says Goffe. “It’s one of the reasons I don’t like digital as much as traditional black and white film. With digital, you can create an image and then print a million of them.”

Goffe sees black and white photography as a gift, a great mystery, a genre she respects with all the thanks and greatness of a closing prayer. It’s provided her with an ample arsenal of sharp-looking memories.

“Black and white photography is more about connections,” says Goffe. “It’s not like a piece of décor that matches the sofa. We connect emotionally to it; connect to it with a passion not found in color. Black and white requires truer composition, too.”

Jane Goffe - Missoula Photographer

Goffe has been shooting with a 35 millimeter Nikon film camera for thirty years. The camera has always been her guide, and it’s allowed her to see things and focus on things that perhaps an average person wouldn’t even notice. She is also an avid collector of vintage cameras.  “I’ve even got old Kodak ones that are one hundred years old,” says Goffe.

No matter what she shoots with, Goffe’s eye naturally gravitates to fleeting moments in our lives. She knows how to seize moments that would otherwise have evaporated into the forgotten past. Seize moments that fade or morph into our distinctly selective version of reality. Without Goffe’s photography, several very special split seconds would have lost their truth, beauty and glory.

Often photography is a thankless position to take on as an occupation. In an era of digital manipulation and ubiquitously free imagery, the price associated with the professional photographer’s skill and product has plummeted. To make matters tougher, the present market for black and white photography is especially narrow.

Jane Goffe - Missoula Photographer

“Maybe two percent of people are looking for a photo that they can emotionally connect to,” says Goffe. “People who take the time to look and observe and absorb the photo, are fewer than ever, it seems. But when someone tells me a photo reminds them of a feeling, time or a place in their lives, that’s still most rewarding.”

So Goffe will push forward, push forward capturing the marked stillness of grain elevators and train depots. Push forward as a way to settle down. Push forward in the steely reserve and silence of her art.

“My work has a very quiet, peaceful feeling,” says Goffe. “Our society is bombarded with images. In the end, it is nice to offer that quiet image for one to connect to.”


Read more of Brian’s stories about the fascinating places and personalities that shape Western Montana in his blog archive.


Brian D’Ambrosio is a Missoula writer, editor, instructor, and media consultant. D’Ambrosio’s recent articles have been published in local, regional, and national publications, including High Country NewsUSA TodayWisconsin TrailsBark MagazineMontana Magazine, and Backpacker Magazine.

His latest book about legendary vigilante screen actor Charles Bronson, Menacing Face Worth Millions, A Life of Charles Bronson, is available for purchase on Kindle. He is also the author of Montana Summer: 101 Great Adventures in Big Sky Country. D’Ambrosio’s next book, Desert Horse: A Life of Marvin Camel, a biography of the Montana boxing legend, will be published by Riverbend Publishing in 2013.