Jon Mullen bringing conservation photography to life in Boulder

Using landscape photography to bring attention to conservation in Colorado and beyond

By Tatyana Sharpton Sep 18 2019

The Jon Mullen Gallery on the Pearl Street Mall’s east end features large-scale photographs of expansive landscapes and close-up textures, all images telling tales of the natural world.

When he launched the space at 1727 Pearl Street in March, Jon Mullen embarked on a new journey.

Lupine and Afternoon Rainshower: Gunnision National Forest, near Crested Butte

Jon, who has been selling prints for about 15 years, photographs threatened, wild places all over the country for organizations working to protect them, such as the Wilderness Society and Conservation Colorado. He also gives these photos to policy makers — generally elected government officials, such as Congress members and their teams — for them to use in their campaigns.

Often, people writing the bills and initiatives to protect the land never actually see it. It’s much easier to get excited seeing animals and life than lines on a map.

The vision in the gallery is similar: to provide a public venue where the community can connect to the issues that are facing our public lands.

Currently, the gallery is showing photos from within the boundaries of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act. These pieces include images from Mount Sneffels, Arapaho National Forest, Thompson Divide, Tenmile Range, Gunnison National Forest, Spraddle Creek and so many more stunning Colorado natural places.

Gallery life

Inside Jon Mullen Gallery. Image: Tatyana Sharpton

“Everyone has a camera in their pocket and brick-and-mortar is dying, so opening a storefront to sell photography is the dumbest thing you can do right now,” Jon says. “And I heard that a lot. But until you actually do it do you know if it’s going to fail?”

Jon, who never thought he’d own a gallery, is an engineer by trade. A love for the outdoors, rock climbing, and backpacking fueled his passion for photography, and shortly after moving to Boulder 20 years ago, he got into conservation work. Up until December, he was still taking on engineering work.

Asked what it was like running a gallery on Pearl Street, Jon laughs, “It’s like getting shot off the end of an aircraft carrier.”

“I had often noticed eyes among the knotty boles of aspen forests. For several years, I scanned every aspen forest I could find for a composition that would let me bring two together. After years of searching, I was lucky enough to then only have to wait a few hours for the perfect light to photograph it.” Source: Jon Mullen

Jon intentionally signed a short-term lease at the current gallery. As he holds no previous background in retail or consumer-facing businesses, he wanted to see what the numbers looked like.

The biggest challenge has been time management. There’s the retail component, manufacturing component, and service component to running his business, and at the moment it’s only him.

Jon and Zuni outside the gallery. Image; Tatyana Sharpton

Jon and his pup Zuni are currently shopping around for another space on Pearl for when his lease is up. Next step is to bring in help and build a team.

Jon in the front room of the gallery. Image: Tatyana Sharpton

Although he offers custom prints at various sizes, Jon often sells the work right off the walls.

“It’s important to not rely on factors outside of your control to grow,” he says. “If someone doesn’t get it, don’t change your work. Keep perfecting it for you.”

Header image: Sea of Sage by Jon Mullen. Proposed Williams Fork Wildlife Conservation Area, Arapaho National Forest.