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Photographer, musician Lloyd Grotjan shares passions with Jefferson City

Photographer, musician Lloyd Grotjan shares passions with Jefferson City

July 22nd, 2019 by Emily Cole in News

Lloyd Grotjan poses next to a 10-inch view camera in his downtown Jefferson City photographic studio, Full Spectrum Photo. Grotjan is a man of many talents including professional photographer, musician and visual artist.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Lloyd Grotjan has seen most of Jefferson City during the last 40 years through the lens of his camera.

Growing up, Grotjan said, he always wanted to be a wildlife biologist, but he was also interested in photography. It's clear which interest eventually won his attention when you visit Grotjan at Full Spectrum Photo & Audio on East High Street.

Grotjan said photography is basically the only profession he's had since high school — but although he went to school at the University of Missouri, he didn't study photography.

"Everything photo-wise was a school of hard knocks kind of thing — just traveling and that kind of thing," Grotjan said.

Grotjan worked at several studios in the downtown Jefferson City area until one day he took over a studio when the current owner sold him the business for $1 and moved to France.

Twenty-five years ago, Grotjan bought the building at 218 E. High St. where Full Spectrum resides. Originally covered in green carpet, the building now features a black and white checkered marble floor that Grotjan discovered under several layers of flooring.

During renovations on the top floor, Grotjan found a box of historical items — photos, newspaper articles and posters — detailing the history of the building. In an old article from the Daily Tribune, a mention was made of those floors, and Grotjan knew he had to uncover them.

Grotjan is a fan of architecture and has done a lot of architectural photography. He took photos for a book called "The Art of the Missouri Capitol: History in Canvas, Bronze, and Stone," which was commissioned by the Second State Capitol Commission, now the Missouri State Capitol Commission. The book, written by Bob Priddy and Jeffrey Ball, was published in 2011.

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Grotjan spent a lot of time in the Capitol to get some of the hundreds of photos featured in the book.

"They gave me a pass, and I could go in anytime," Grotjan said. "A lot of times, to get the pictures, I'd go in at 10 o'clock and stay until 2 or 3 in the morning. It was cool to just go anywhere in the Capitol."

Grotjan also spent time in the Capitol as a photographer for several governors, starting with former Gov. John Ashcroft in the late 1980s. He took photos in some capacity for every governor after that, until former Gov. Eric Greitens took office in 2017.

"It didn't seem to matter which party it was, too, since I'd been there," Grotjan said. "They would just say, 'Oh, get Lloyd to do the pictures.'"

As the governor's office photographer, Grotjan said, he did different things for each administration. Sometimes he would just take pictures during proclamations. Some would hire him as the official photographer, and some would just pay him for certain photos.

Once, he was able to take photos of visiting former President George W. Bush at the Miller Performing Arts Center. He still has his official White House press pass.

Outside of photography, Grotjan has also always been involved in music.

"I've always liked guitar, and growing up in the '60s and '70s, that was the thing to be — a guitar player," Grotjan said.

He played acoustic and electric guitar, even performing in some rock bands throughout the '70s. By the 1980s, his interest turned from rock music to more ambient, natural sounding music.

Since the 1990s, he's been playing alone. At one point he played a 12-string guitar, which allowed him to get a bigger sound playing solo.

Around five years ago he picked up the harp guitar — an instrument that combines a traditional six-string guitar, super-treble guitar and bass all in one, which gets its name from the unfretted strings that are picked like a harp.

For Grotjan, the instrument provides a full sound, but also a visual experience as he performs — something he values.

"I've been to a lot of concerts where the music sounds fantastic, but I could just be listening to the CD," he said. "Since I'm a photographer, the visual stuff is like 50-50 auditory and visual."

Grotjan has recorded some CDs and has even performed on Sirius XM radio. When more music switched over to streaming, his albums weren't performing as well, he said, until a dance troupe asked to use one of his tracks for their performances.

For a while, Grotjan and his wife would travel around Missouri: his wife would do pottery demonstrations, and he would perform music. After their two daughters were born, they stopped performing as much. However, he said, he'd like to start doing more performances.

Grotjan performed July 20 at an event hosted by Capitol City Cinema called "Part of the Circle." As he played, some of his nature photography was shown on screen to emphasize the music's connection with nature.

At his studio, Grotjan offers photography, photo restoration and audio work like digitizing old cassette tapes. He said he also has an offer with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce to restore area residents' photos damaged in the May 22 tornado or recent flooding.