Heading Out into a New Year
Photo of England countryside by Jared Platt

 I am looking out into the new year and looking at my travel and lecture schedule which gets more and more complicated and crowded every day and I wonder what things I will see and who I will meet this year.  And more importantly I hope I will be able to able to be a force for change in people’s lives.  I love hearing from people who say their lives have changed as a result of the things they have learned from me.  That is why I teach.  I love to unlock doors for people.

Follow my schedule on the right hand side of my blog here and find a lecture or a workshop near you and come join me.  If you can’t make it to a workshop or a convention like WPPI or Imaging USA, join me online at creativeLIVE.com.

For those of you interested in an adventure… join me in Krakow, Poland in August: www.poland.mzed.com

I wish you all the very best this year.

Shooting with Stuart Thurkill

Stuart Thurkill shooting a wedding at the Montelucia in Scottsdale, Arizona.

I shot a wedding with Stuart Thurkill a few weeks ago at the Montelucia in Scottsdale, Arizona. His assistant was ill and I was free, so I stepped in to help out. We had a great time. The couple was cool and I always enjoy talking with Stuart because he is so passionate about everything, and he’s such a nice guy. This image I shot of Stuart at the wedding was certainly worth showing. I think that look he’s sporting is Zoolander’s patented Blue Steel look.

Excuse Our Dust – We are Under Construction

As you can see, we have just changed the blog.  It is all new and improved, except for one thing.  You can’t see the photos!  Which is a pretty big issue.  So we have our very best technicians looking into the problem.  We have hit everything with a hammer a few times and given every hard drive a good shaking and now we are unscrwewing every scew and bolt to see if we can find the photos.

Please be patient as we solve the problems.  We should be back up and running soon.

In the mean time, Platt Photography has lots of great images to look at and for more information about my workshops, go to Jared Platt Workshops.


Jared Platt

Boston’s Elegant Pass Time

It was great to be in Boston again.  I have always loved Boston.  A number of years ago, I sent a few days here at my best friend’s graduation from Harvard.  It is such a beautiful city.  One of the things I find most alluring about the city is the crew and sailing culture.  Out west, we like to boat, but it is a different kind of boating.  We drag skiers behind power boats.  Here it is a much more refined activity.  It’s like the difference between playing Hungry Hippos and Chess.  Both are fun, but one is just a lot more elegant.

Anyway, it was a pleasure to visit.  I am so grateful to Calumet Photographic for allowing us to hold the workshop there.  It is a fantastic store with a great sales staff.  Thanks so much Calumet.

This visit, I had a few minutes to walk along the river and found a big sailing school.  It looked like a lot of fun, but alas, I had to leave for New York City for my next PUG Lecture and Lightroom Workflow Workshop.  Someday, I think I would like to learn how to sail.


Sick of Spam

Want to stop spam emails?  The problem is demand side… as long as there is someone clicking on the viagra spam email link, or the porn offers, there will be spammers.  Once there is no money in it, the spammers will go away. So, who is it out there who is still clicking on the spam emails?  Who really trusts a mortgage company that misspells their product to get through the spam filter?  And what kind of person trusts a spammer to order their medications online?

If there was ever an argument against Al Gore’s push to connect every home and classroom in America to the internet, SPAM proliferation is it.  It may be that we’d all be better off if computers and access to the web were far more expensive!

iPhone Photos – Let's face it, it's a better camera than it is a phone!

I have an iPhone.  Have had one for many years.  I was an early adopter and have suffered at the hand of the contraption for the entire time.  It is a great little device, but it is a terrible phone.  If you call and catch me on my iPhone and I am out on the road or even in my office, you will most likely get dropped.  I am told by AT&T that it is due to the fact that too many people are on the 3G network so it gets overloaded and apparently randomly chooses who get’s thrown off the network.  But anymore, I am certain that it is not random.  It drops me first, then my brother Rex, and then everyone else gets in line for the privilege of being the next dropped call.

But I must admit, the iPhone (which should be called the iGadget) is amazing at everything else it does.  And one of those things is a cool little phone with all sorts of cool photo applications.  My hats off to all the programers of the applications.  I bring this up because I went to lunch with some photographer friends (Melissa Jill, Rebecca Bouck, Isaac Bailey and Kimberly Jarman) a while ago and was introduced to an photo app called ShakeitPhoto, which takes a photo in the form of a Polaroid.  It is a fun little app and even makes you wait for the photo to develop.  How fun is that?

Anyway, here is a photo taken with that app on the iGadget.

It really is quite true that the best camera is the one in your hands.


Do You Want A Discount

I just read a blog post by Melissa Jill about her rule on discounts.  So many people would like a discount on the services we provide as photographers.  It is interesting to me that the dentist, or the lawyer, or the mechanic is not interested in giving me a discount on their services, but when they come to me for services, they would like a discount.  It is a classic issue of pride: overvaluing ones own worth and undervaluing everyone else’s worth.  My father always wants to buy his new car at a discount and yet, he wants to sell his old car at a premium.  Of course, if one can get away with it, it is good business for them, but if I want to stay in business, I can’t work for free or even half price…  It is hard for people to get this concept, so I am re-posting this video Melissa found that puts the issue in perspective…

My Discount Rule:

So, what is my discount rule?  It is even more simple than Melissa’s.  I work for full price.  If you are special enough to me to get a discount, my services will be FREE, otherwise, it is full price.  My price structure puts my photography within reach, so I don’t offer discounts to anyone.  I enjoy doing things free of charge as a service to the ones I love, or for those in extreme need, but I also have a family to feed, so when I work, I work for full price.  It’s that simple.

I do have one exception to my discount rule.  I give a discount to our military.  They are willing to give their life for me, so offering a discount to them is the least I can do.  I have many friends and family in the military, and I hope that everyone out there is taking care of them.  We all owe them a debt we can never repay.

New iPhone / iPad Web Site Launched

Thanks to liveBooks, my amazing web design company, I now have an iPhone / iPad web site that draws its images from my standard flash site.  Check it out if you are on an iSomething: www.plattphotography.com.  If you visit the site on a computer with flash installed you will still see my flash site, but if you visit from an iSomething, you will see the new mobile site.


Those of you who have been in my workshops know how much I love liveBooks.  Now, I have another reason to love them.  And now you have another reason to switch to a liveBooks web site.

Those of you who are not photographers, you should know that liveBooks can also create an amazing web site for your business as well.  They have custom sites as well as template sites that are available for as little as $39 a month.

Anyway, just a little happy news from inside my studio!

A Dust Storm Rising: Takes Me Back Home

Living in the desert is a unique experience.  Forget about the 120 degree summer days and the horribly unfriendly plant life.  To me, the weather is quite fascinating.  I love the monsoon rainstorms and the lightning is fantastic.  Other places in the world have their own challenging weather situations, many much more dangerous.  There are tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, etc…  and none of these options are very appealing to me, which is why I prefer my native state of Arizona.  But we do have our own unique weather effect: the dust storm.

I was traveling back from a job in Tucson and took a back road route home (rather than the freeway).  I enjoy doing this because everything goes by so quickly on the freeway and there is no inclination to stop and look at anything (and of course, it would be illegal to do so).  So the back roads are much more enjoyable as road trips go.  On my way home, I saw an approaching dust storm and immediately pulled off the road and pulled out the camera and went hiking.  The Arizona dust storm has a beautiful effect on our world.  It creates a ghost of anything in the distance if not, it completely obscures it.  Like a blizzard, it creates a thin sketch of the landscape with little to no contrast.  I am generally haunted by vacancy in an image.  I am not sure why, but of all the photographs I would select to hang in my home, it is those filled with quiet and solitude that appeal most to me.  That doesn’t mean that I choose to photograph this way all the time, but it has the deepest emotional affect on my soul.  I think it is because that is who I am at my core.
 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

If you are drawn to a particular style of photography, or art, and looking at that work brings you home, you can be sure that that attraction says a lot about you as a person.  In fact, weather you like a photograph or don’t, says less about the photographer or the photograph and more about you as a person.  Which is why, I think, that I get along so well with my clients.  They have selected me as their photographer based on their emotional and intellectual response to my work.  Which means that they, in some way, deep down at some root level, are like me.  We agree on what gives us peace and brings us home.

When I got home and started working with this image, I asked my wife about this image.  “Am I off base, or is this image extremely haunting and beautiful?”

“I can see what you are attracted to in the image,” she replied, “but it’s not all that great!”

No, I wasn’t devastated by her comment.  I just decided she was wrong.  It is great, but perhaps only to me and people like me.  Remember, her reaction to the photograph says more about her, than it does about the photo.  In contrast, I think my friend Isaac Bailey would like it.  But I think we share a common love for solitude (or perhaps it is a sullen longing for sleep).  My wife grew up in the city with all of its distractions and noise, I grew up on the prairies of Northern Arizona where the only noise is the constant wind.  So, my wife’s take on this photo was an instructive reminder to me.  My wife is a good judge of a photograph, which tells me that this image is different, my attraction to it isn’t just about some other brilliantly employed compositional strategy, I didn’t make this picture to sell something or even to make a statement.  I made it because something inside me wanted to go home for a little while and relax there in the shadow of the Zuni Mountains and look over the endless flat land, smell the dust, swap stories with my brothers and wait until dark for a ride back into town.  This was a free ticket back to Bitter Springs after the long climb through The Gap to witness the brilliant view from the tops of the Vermilion Cliffs.  Sometimes photography isn’t about the subject in front of us at all.  The subject is just a catalyst for memory, a sort of psychiatrist’s couch for introspection and self discovery.  And sometimes, a photography session reminds you of who you are.

These introspective moments almost never happen while the camera is in your hands.  They come in the quiet times in the darkroom, or the Lightroom as you study the results.  And while my mantra is always about efficiency in post production. When I feel that prompting, I do my best to slow down, and examine my work closely without distractions or deadlines and find out what it is, I have been trying to say to myself.

A few more images from the series that I think you might enjoy.

 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ
 Dust Storm Rising: Coolidge, AZ

Tech Talk: All of the images in this post were completely processed in Lightroom.  They were never opened in Photoshop.  Tones, grain and vignettes were all added in Lightroom without the use of any additional plugins etc.  Below is a video about creating custom vignettes in Lightroom like those you see above.  This video is also on iTunes and on the Pictage Blog.  Check out more of my podcasts at iTunes and more blog posts at Pictage Blog.

Creating Custom Vignettes in Adobe Lightroom 2.6 from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

An Interesting Photo Assignment: George W Bush

I ate dinner with the Secret Service the other night.  Former President George W Bush attended an intimate dinner with about 12 people and I was there to photograph the event.  So while they ate, I ate with the rest of the staff and the Secret Service.  There were almost 20 of them, of course I only saw 4 of them at any one time.  It is impressive how thorough the Secret Service is.

I was there mostly to take a few quick portraits of everyone with President Bush.  But I also did some documentary photography of his arrival and his meeting everyone.  Former Vice President Dan Quayle was there as well.  This was one of my favorite photos from the evening.  I love how President Bush’s hand is rising out of the darkness and the determination on his face is indicative of his character.


This next photo just made me laugh, so I am sharing it with you.  It was the perfect out of context moment where everyone looked like they were aghast at conversation.  Mr. Quayle looks like he is saying something like “you have got to be kidding me, I can’t believe you said that…” and you might just disregard that as a poorly timed moment in the flux of speech, but then out of the top right hand corner comes the server who has a similar look of surprise and maybe a hint of disgust.  And that seals the deal.  And all of it was a completely begin conversation, I just happen to capture that exact moment where everything came together in an accidental moment that says the opposite of what was really going on.  That is the trick of photography, isn’t it?  It is at best, a half-truth and at worst, an out-right lie.  Because moments are frozen in time and frames are taken out of context, one can never be certain, or trust that what they are seeing is in fact an accurate portrayal of the real world, even if Photoshop is never used.


President Bush is a very gracious man.  I was surprised at how casual and fun he was.  No matter what your political leanings may be, I would be willing to bet that, once you meet him, you would like him very much as a person.  He has a very pleasant demeanor and makes everyone feel important, from his wealthy and well connected dinner guests, to the kitchen staff.  After dinner, he came back to meet the kitchen staff and thank them for the meal.

I always find the moments between the grip and grin photos to be the more interesting moments.  In this photograph, President Bush has just had his picture taken with this chef, and has begun to chat with the rest of the kitchen staff.  I love the expression on the chef’s face and the relaxed and natural smile on President Bush’s face.


Everyone had a great time whenever he was in the room.  He is simply a magnanimous person with an electrifying personality.  I suppose you don’t get elected to be President of the United States without knowing how to light up the room.


My assistant, Rex, snapped this shot.  I’ll leave it to your imagination what he is saying to me.


A Chance to Hear Kevin Burdick Live in Arizona

Kevin Burdick is one of my favorite musicians, and it is not just because I know him very well.  He has a very unique story telling ability and is an incredibly talented musician.  Well, he will be in Arizona at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts on March 31st at 7 PM.  If you are anywhere in the area, you should come.  Not only will you hear some great music, but you will be supporting a great cause.  All of the proceeds from the concert go to The Dempsey Burdick Memorial Foundation and to the Coronado 8th Grade.  The Dempsey Burdick Memorial Foundation helps struggling and grieving families pay for headstones as they bury their young children who have died.  The concert is only $5 per person and $20 per family.  It really is for a great cause.  Please take the time to come and have a great time with your family and help other families in their deepest hour of need.

I will be there.  You should be there too…

DATE AND TIME: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 – 7:00PM – 8:00PM

LOCATION: Higley Center for the Performing Arts‎ – 4132 East Pecos Road, Gilbert, AZ 85295  MAP

 Portrait of Kevin Burdick by Jared Platt

Kevin is a talented and entertaining performer.  You can listen to his music on iTunes or at KevingBurdick.com.  And if you can not make it, please go toDempseyBurdick.com and consider donating the price of admission to help a family in need.  It really does make a big difference in a family’s life.  I hear stories from Kevin all the time about people they have helped.  Anything you can give will make a difference.

Portrait Session with Kevin Burdick

It is always a blast shooting Kevin Burdick (www.pianorockstar.com).  He’s wildly expressive, has no inhibitions and is just an all around great guy.  And I’m not just saying that.  We’ve been friends since high school, made music together then and even some very screwy home movies and music videos.  One of them included a scene that almost resulted in Kevin’s death, but instead, thanks to Kevin’s strong neck muscles, and our quick response, we ended up only with a massive rope burn around his neck.  Come to think of it, I think we continued filming for a while before we realized he was in trouble.  Flailing legs and a red face can either mean great acting, or eminent death…

I’m glad he’s still with us.  He has made some great music since then and he’s always been a great friend.

So, this is a fun little set of images to wet your whistle.  We first shot a few studio shots and Kevin went to town with the facial expressions.  The best way to see them is in connection with each other.  Tomorrow I am posting the fantastic images we got from the on-location portrait session, which include Kevin, various umbrellas, lots of wind and a vast empty landscape.  Until then, enjoy this funny little set of photos and go listen to some of Kevin’s music at www.pianorockstar.com.


My Golf Lesson with a Golf Pro

Just thought you might want to get brushed up on your golf game.

While I was shooting a portrait of Long Ball World Champion Sean Fister, he offered to give me a little golf lesson, which the film crew got on camera, and now it is in the Dixon Golf You-Tube Promo.  Sean Fister is a funny guy.  I had a lot of fun shooting the portraits.  Now I just want one of his Punishers (his driver) .  I hit it, it is a very nice club!  My drive was long!

Dixon Golf makes the Earth Ball.  It is a long hitting ball that also happens to be the worlds first and only completely recyclable golf ball.  Oh, and did I mention that it is a LONG ball?  It’s a long ball.  Put that Punisher together with the Earth Ball and you’ve got a long drive.  (Yes, I golf).

My golf lesson is at 2:20.  Let me know what you think of my form.

Say a prayer for those in Haiti

I look out at the heavy thunderstorm here in Phoenix tonight and say a prayer of thanks that I have a warm home and complete safety from the storm.  While there are hundreds of thousands without any shelter or dead in Haiti from the earthquake there.

We are blessed here in the US with such prosperity and ease.  Even in a bad economy, we live comfortably and without much fear.  My biggest fear tonight is that the storm will create a power surge and damage the computer.

So, everyone say a prayer for and do what you can to provide something for those who now have absolutely nothing in Haiti.

By the way, earthquakes are another reason I love Arizona.  We don’t have them.

Album Cover Photo Shoot with Kevin Burdick

I have posted about Kevin Burdick before.  I thought I would share with you a slideshow and set of images from the album cover photo shoot for Kevin’s latest album, We Are The Walking Wounded. It is a fantastic album which you can find at iTunes or on his web site. Kevin has written some of his most haunting songs for this album.

Below are shots from Kevin Burdick’s final album cover for We Are the Walking Wounded.

It is always interesting to see the final product after it has gone through the designer. The original file was a color image with the head of the model included, and is a great image on its own. But, I love the effect of the crop on the image. There are so many things that can change an image, but I will always maintain that the crop is the hardest hitting change that can be made to an image. Notice the way the focus of the image is changed completely by the crop.  In this case the focus of the image becomes the girl’s wounds, and perhaps her pain…

Kevin Burdick's final album cover for We Are the Walking Wounded.

Kevin Burdick's final album cover for his latest album, We Are the Walking Wounded.

… whereas the original un-cropped image focuses less on her wounds and metaphorical pain and more on her loneliness and solitude, as she trudges down a lonely road.  Leaving the image in color still allows her wounds to remain important in the photograph, but the overall message behind the photograph is very different in the original, rather than in the cropped album cover version.

The original image that ended up as the cover for the album cover, complete with the model's head.

The original image that ended up as the cover for the album cover, complete with the model's head.

Some photographers might be upset when the intent of their image is changed from their original idea at the camera, but I was not shooting some high brow artistic project, I was part of a larger production which had as its end goal a multi media product. This kind of a thing includes the music and lyrics of the musician and his vision, makeup artist, designers, crew and models. And everyone adds to that final creation, by bringing their artistic abilities to the table. Many times, as a photographer / director, I ask for one thing and on the way to the end, a model will give me something completely unexpected and it is far better than what I had originally intended. And I am happy to follow the new path and follow where it leads. When I am involved in a larger production, it is important for everyone to have a strong opinions, but check their egos at the door. Quite frankly I was pleased with the final image and thought it furthered the song’s message quite nicely.

Scouting the album photo shoot was the most critical thing we did.  We knew that there was an old town called Thistle, Utah that had been buried in a mudslide years and years ago, so we went out in search of the location a few days prior to our shoot and found this home buried in a bog, which had a fantastic look, and was near highway, so it made access very easy.  The only real concern was how to carry a Grand Slam Piano Body through the thickets and swamp to a small patch of dry, firm ground.  It was quite a challenge, but we did it and I think the images were a success as a result.

Kevin Burdick and his wounded entourage and his stage piano in the near a half sunken house in Thistle, Utah.

Kevin Burdick and his wounded entourage and his stage piano in the near a half sunken house in Thistle, Utah.

Kevin, his manager and one of the models carying a Grand Slam baby grand body across the highway back to the tour bus after the photo shoot.

Kevin, his manager and one of the models carrying a Grand Slam baby grand body across the highway back to the tour bus after the photo shoot.

I wanted to see Kevin playing his piano in the most unlikely place.  This spot worked out great.

I wanted to see Kevin playing his piano in the most unlikely place. This spot worked out great.

It was an fun shoot, we all had a great time and got some cool images.  It is important for me to get out of the wedding photo zone once and a while to photograph something very different.  Shooting personal work, political events, editorial portraits and such helps me to maintain a fresh eye on the world and I find that each time I come back to a wedding I have something new to give to my clients as a result.  As photographers we have to continually practice and keep our skills sharp, and any opportunity I can find to do that in a different way, I take.

Here are a few more images from the album cover photo shoot.

This one seemed to feel like an old horror film, where the girl is running away from the monster and of course she is constantly falling and looking back.

This one seemed to feel like an old horror film, where the girl is running away from the monster and of course she is constantly falling and looking back.

The makeup on this model was very good.  As we were shooting I thought the little lip bite was adorable in a strange way.

The makeup on this model was very good. As we were shooting I thought the little lip bite was adorable in a strange way.

The vantage point on this image was critical to seeing Kevin, the wounded and the swamped house.

The vantage point on this image was critical to seeing Kevin, the wounded and the swamped house. My height was accomplished by climbing up onto a half demolished old shed. Not the safest place to be, but we didn't have a ladder. Lesson: always bring a ladder, but if you forget, do anything to get the shot...

We were very proud to have gotten the piano into this position for the shot.  And my hat off to Grand Slam for making a piano body that is light enough to get it into this spot.

We were very proud to have gotten the piano into this position for the shot. And my hat off to Grand Slam for making a piano body that is light enough to get it into this spot.

Musician: Kevin Burdick

Photographer: Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Thistle, Utah

Remembering Bill Jay – Professor, Historian and Friend
Bill Jay being interviewed at his home in Mesa, Arizona by the BBC.

Bill Jay being interviewed at his home in Mesa, Arizona by the BBC.

I began by writing the title to my post here by writing “Remembering Bill Jay – Professor, Historian and Fiend“, accidentally missing the R on the keyboard, and as I moved the cursor back to correct the error, I laughed, because Bill Jay (if he has a blog feed of everything we are saying about him in the hereafter) would have laughed as well.  He would have quite readily taken the title of Fiend and run with it.  He was just the sort of self-depreciating, sarcastic humorist that could find a hearty laugh in any stinging insult one might thrust his way.  As I remember him today, I think of the twinkle in his eye that flashed as he smiled and chuckled warmly during almost every conversation I ever had with him and I am convinced that he chuckled again as I misspelled the word friend and instead called him a fiend!  But he might prefer a more embellished version of this title: Politically Incorrect British Fiend.

Bill Jay was my mentor and professor during my undergraduate and graduate years at Arizona State University.  I was among the very last of his students before he retired and I was privileged to be one of the very last to have him sit on my graduate thesis panel.  I took every class he taught, every semester, and when I wasn’t taking classes from him I was in his office listening to his stories about the great photographers of the past.  He had met, published work by and knew the sordid tales of more of the great photographer’s lives than most people will even read about in their life time.  And every time he spoke, I listened in wrapped attention.  In fact, I recall a semester where I did nothing but listen.  I think I completely stopped taking notes and just soaked in his ideas.

Bill Jay smoking a cigarette at his home.

Bill Jay smoking a cigarette at his home.

Bill was famous for his unconventional view of the history of photography and had a talent for pushing buttons across the world of art academia.  His lectures and articles were hard to swallow by the artist who surrounded him in the university faculty because his ideas were full of facts and historical documentation. He ridiculed the artist’s natural longing to create by accident and without method or schedule.  And discounted the irrational and emotional discussion of art without the grounding influence of history and perspective.

I will recall one article, in which he chided the art community for their hatred of advertising and reverence for art.  You know the argument… when an artist finally sells his work to be reproduced on a coffee mug, or a corporate advertising campaign, the other jealous artists who are still working at the ever so non-corporate Starbucks to pay their bills scoff and call him a “sell out”.

When I hear my colleagues pontificate on the purity of art versus the sordidness of advertising I have to wonder at their own grasp on reality. The boundary between art and advertising cannot be erected because there is no dividing line. This has always been true. Art, even so-called Fine Art, is no different in principle or spirit from advocacy. The chances are good that our ancient ancestors, like us, were equally complicitous in the selling/buying pact.

Recently I was reading a turgid tome speculating on the purpose of neolithic cavepaintings, in which the authors were blathering about magic, spiritualism, ritual, psychic connections, shamanistic practices, empathetic resonances, on and on. It seems to me more than likely that Og, hoping to be elected a tribal elder and so have his pick of the meat and women, is boasting of his prowess with spear and bravery on the hunt, and in an effort to sell himself hires Ugh to produce some visuals on the cave wall which when lit by the flickering flames of the fire look like television commercials.

-Bill Jay, Artist Rebells without a Cause

Bill discussing the selection process with photographer David Hurn.  David was a consistent figure that appeared into my life once or twice a year.  Hang around Bill enough and you were bound to see David Hurn.

Bill discussing the selection process with photographer David Hurn. David was a consistent figure that appeared into my life once or twice a year. Hang around Bill enough and you were bound to see David Hurn.

I listened to him discuss art from the rational viewpoint, its business, the political implications of it all and the light turned on inside of me.  Finally I was home in the art world.  I was raised by an artist and a lawyer.  My mother is a very talented art teacher, and my father is an intelligent hard working lawyer.  I am 50/50.  So I, like Bill, never really fit in among my artist colleagues.  I was far too rational to buy the gibberish that explained their unexplainable art work.  I knew I had a talent and an eye, but it was only when Bill spoke that I found a place in the world of the photographic arts.  There was actually a rational way to see art.  Yes, art is emotionally based and full of musical communications between souls, but it is also something that the rational human being can discuss, without developing a whole new circular vocabulary of catch phrases and hippie drug induced comma speak.
Bill ran the small but defiant Photo Studies program in the Photography wing of the School of Fine Arts at Arizona State University.  With a few exceptions, the powers of the Art School were hell bent on watching his program wither and die.  His little program consisted of four or five students who studied not just the act of photography, but learned how to research and write about the medium.  It was the goal of this program to create photographers and photo historians who could leave college with a useful set of skills, industry and academic contacts and the ability to earn a living in their chosen medium.  It was a “professional” program.  Translated for the artists: we were the “sell outs”.  So with Bill’s tutelage, our little photo studies program continued to defy, the conventional art culture.
It is funny indead to put it that way, most artists see themselves as defying culture, going against the grain, but in the end, they are falling right in line with their own art culture where everyone is just the same.  They must rebell to conform to the social norms of their peers.  Without the tattoo, the nose ring, a joint and full funeral black dress, they might stick out and look like a happy “normal” person, they might be too different from their crowd.

But in this crowd of artists, I and my fellow photo studies graduate students had found a less morose, and more intellectual home with Bill as our father figure, showing us how to step out on our own and do something truly unique in the art world, succeed.

Bill Jay being interviewed by the BBC.

Bill Jay being interviewed by the BBC.

For years after his retirement, I spent many mornings at his favorite diner having pancakes as he ate his eggs, bacon and hash browns talking with him about my latest efforts or listening to more stories about this photographer or that one.  He would encourage me to run with one project or another and I always thought, ‘I need to spend more time with Bill, record our conversations and document this man and everything he knows before he leaves us, because at the rate he salts his eggs, he can’t be around for much longer.’ Bill had already had a series of heart attacks, but he swore that life was only worth living if you could live it well.  And salt and eggs were part of life.

Soon though, he moved to San Diego for health reasons.  (Phoenix is to hot!)  And I recall meeting him at his apartment there several years ago, when I presented him with a small portfolio book of my wedding photography.  I suppose I presented it to him with the same eagerness my son presents his latest drawings to me.  I hoped that my “photographic father” would approve of the work I was accomplishing, even though I knew he probably wished that I had taken a more intellectual path, following in his historical footsteps.  But his response both shocked and thrilled me.

Perhaps it was that he had not seen the state of the wedding photography industry, but I like to think it was the work itself to which he was responding.  “Jared, this is the most amazing wedding photography I have ever seen.”  He continued to tell me how fantastic the images were and that it was great work, for it’s own sake, regardless of who’s wedding it was.  It was timeless work, he said, that would be important beyond the client’s spear, like portraits by Avedon or Penn (not that he was putting me on their level) that are important beyond their subject’s immediate use.  I was flattered and excited.  It was a confirmation that what I was attempting to create in wedding photography and portraiture was something more than images just for the clients who hire me, but images that would be important to anyone who saw them because of the visual and intellectual concepts in the photographs themselves: composition, emotion, shadows and highlights, movement, moments, metaphors, framing, lines, perspective…  Perhaps he was more complimentary than was warranted, but Bill was always genuine.

I learned something about myself that day, about where I tend to and should look for accolades.  It was his opinion of my photographs that meant more to me than anyone’s, more so than that of another photographer’s, even a master photographer, because it was his considered opinion that stood against changing fads and whims.  Because he knew the traditions, the movements and the alterations of the medium, he could see more clearly from a more objective vantage point.  It was the validation that my work might stand the test of time that I sought and received from him that day and no award that I can receive in this medium can match that small comment from one of the worlds most treasured photographic historians.

Bill Jay in California with one of his students.  Bill took us on extended networking field trips to meet people who may be helpful to our careers in the future.  But I think he also just liked being a tourist.

Bill Jay in California with one of his students. Bill took us on extended networking field trips to meet people who may be helpful to our careers in the future. But I think he also just liked being a tourist.

Unfortunately that may have been the last time I saw Bill.  We spoke on the phone on occasion, but he soon moved to Costa Rica, where I swore I would go as soon as I could to see him one last time.  I somehow knew that he would not be coming back and I missed the chance to see him again before he passed on.  I regret that missed opportunity, but his passing doesn’t bring me sorrow.  He wouldn’t approve of that anyway, sadness was not in his nature.  I have only once seen him with tears in his eyes, and that was for his youngest daughter as we discussed her challenges when she lost her leg in an accident.  But I think they might have been part sadness and part pride at her successes.  I rarely saw him without a smile on his face, or at least in his eyes.  I think that came from the furious curiosity that churned inside him.

He approached the opportunity to gain information with pure excitement and then to pass it on with even greater enthusiasm.  He used to tell me, “I have so much to get out into the world, I have plenty of papers in there that haven’t been submitted, just put your name one and get it out into the world.”  He wasn’t interested in the credit, just in getting the information out into the world for the benefit of the historical record.  I suppose I should have taken him up on that once or twice.

Perhaps the things I write and the lectures I give about photography are still his voice.  I found my voice through Bill Jay.  It was as though I had found my thoughts inside someone else head and as he spoke I recognized my own thoughts about photography and the world.  I don’t know what drew me to Bill, or why I rejected Law School to study with him.  Perhaps it was the intellectual and objective approach to the art.  Perhaps it was the historian.  Perhaps it was the sarcasm.  Perhaps it was the funny old englishman and his crazy stories.  Perhaps it was his rebellious spirit.  His independence.  His wisdom.  His beard.  But whatever it was, Bill Jay was my friend from the beginning  and soon became my guide and I hope as he reads his blog feed at St. Peter’s internet cafe’, that he has a good laugh as I call him a Politically Incorrect British Fiend.

Bill Jay and David Hurn.  This is Bill signature laugh/giggle that was to common in conversations with him.

Bill Jay and David Hurn. This is Bill's signature laugh that was common in conversations with him.